It took LSU less than 24 hours to implement a vaccine mandate for all its campuses after the Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer vaccine, declaring it “safe and effective.”
This comes after Tate shared that the university would “act swiftly” to mandate the vaccines that were fully authorized by the FDA. Students have until Sept. 10 to submit documentation of partial vaccination or an exemption form, and until Oct. 15 to show proof of full vaccination.
“As an epidemiologist, I know that vaccination is the way out of this pandemic, and I’m grateful to everyone who has already been vaccinated for helping us move in that direction,” Tate wrote.
Students who fail to submit their vaccine proof or exemption forms by the deadline will not be allowed to register for the spring semester. Students who complete the exemption form but do not comply with the agreed upon testing requirements “will not be allowed to remain part of the LSU community,” said university spokesman Ernie Ballard.
While the university is legally obligated to provide medical, religious and personal exemptions for students with no questions asked, faculty and staff are not given the same privilege. Vaccination accommodation forms for employees of the institution are available but must be approved by the office of Civil Rights & Title IX.
An email from President Tate's office added that employees will be able to submit either their proof of vaccination or vaccine accommodation request form, which provides “certain exemptions, including for medical reasons” starting Sept. 7.
“Louisiana law allows for students to opt out of vaccinations, and those who choose this route will be required to be tested for COVID on a regular basis,” the email also read.
The vaccination exemption form for students takes under three minutes to complete and can be found on theLSU Student Health Center Patient Portal. It requires the student to check a box for which reason they are opting out – whether it be medical, religious or personal – and then agree to follow the university’s unvaccinated student protocols and sign a liability waiver in the case that they contract the virus.
A previous announcement specified every unvaccinated student would be required to get tested once a month, with 25% of the student body tested per week on rotation. Any university employees who are granted exemptions will have similar testing protocols. The LSU COVID-19 dashboard shows that about 4,700 employees have currently been vaccinated.
As of Sunday, around 48% of the roughly 34,000 LSU students have reported being partially or fully vaccinated—meaning approximately 17,500 students have yet to report.
“You either test for COVID or you have a vaccination,” Tate told reporters in the Student Union on Monday. “One or the other to be in our community. We’re very confident that our students understand that. We’re going to hold them to a high [level of accountability] as members of the LSU community.”
Shortly after the FDA’s announcement, LSU released additional protocols for admission into Tiger Stadium during football season: individuals ages 12 and older must provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken at least 72 hours prior to entering Tiger Stadium. LSU is the first SEC school to announce any such requirement.
“While we are aware of the diverse perspectives across the nation regarding masks and vaccinations, we must take all reasonable measures to protect our campus and community, not only on game days, but long after guests have left Tiger Stadium," President William Tate said in a statement.
LSU will continue its previously announced COVID protocols alongside the vaccine mandate until further notice, including the wastewater testing system which prevented an outbreak within Greek life.
Following the discovery of “high traces” of coronavirus in the sewage around East Lakeshore Drive on Thursday, Aug. 19, the university required around 3,000 students who lived in sorority houses and some fraternity houses to get tested within 48 hours at one of three on-campus testing sites.
Since the testing sites were only equipped to handle 400 students at a time, some students waited in their car for hours before being attended to. Several ran out of gas while waiting, one student told The Advocate.
On Wednesday, LSU sent out two emails informing residents of East, South and West Halls that they must be tested by the next evening. South Hall residents were told to be in their dorms by 4:30 p.m. Thursday so a COVID-19 response team could visit each room to administer tests.
“Based on recommendations from state and federal health experts, LSU requires testing of specific on-campus residential halls when a significant COVID-19 health threat is identified,” the emails read. “Presently, we analyze data from the TIGER Check Monitoring System, on-campus testing, the campus wastewater study, and other sources to try to identify and combat the spread of the virus.”
If any of the data tips off the COVID-19 response team to high traces of the virus in a certain area, testing protocols are initiated to prevent an outbreak.
“I’m not going to be satisfied until we have 100% [vaccination among students] because that’s what’s going to keep them safe,” Tate said. “I think it’s the right thing to do. Everybody around you is your neighbor and you can do the right thing by your neighbor by taking the vaccine.”