LSU students face Friday deadline to meet COVID vaccine requirements

By William Patrick | The Center Square

Louisiana State University will begin Friday to enforce its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which includes unenrolling students who do not comply.

LSU is the state’s largest public university with nearly 32,000 students.

Friday is the deadline to submit proof of at least one vaccine dose or a formal exemption waiver to the school’s Student Health Center Patient Portal. Students will have until Oct. 15 to prove full vaccination.

Those able to opt-out must submit to random COVID-19 testing on a regular basis, the university said.

“Each week, 25 percent of all unvaccinated students will be tested using a stratified approach to ensure each week’s sample is generalizable to the student population based on living arrangement (i.e., on-campus or off-campus) and other factors,” LSU’s mitigation protocols said.

A positive result must be reported to the school’s “Daily Symptom Checker,” a digital system that sends texts messages and emails to faculty, staff and students. Participation is required even without a positive test.

“The LSU community will be required to self-monitor their symptoms daily,” read the protocols. “Once respondents have provided information about their symptoms, they will be provided with feedback. The QR code from the daily symptom checker will be used for entrance into high traffic areas on campus.”

The school also has a digital contact tracing program where students are required to enter positive test results and information about those they have been in contact with.

“If additional information is needed or someone does not provide this information, they will be contacted,” the school said.

LSU’s proof of vaccination or negative test policy, sometimes called a vaccine passport system, will apply to the first home football game at Tiger Stadium on Saturday.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has been a staunch opponent of student vaccine mandates in the public university system. He previously argued higher education mandates and related participatory conditions cannot be imposed because the Emergency Use Authorization status of COVID-19 vaccines.

That changed Aug. 23, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. LSU President William Tate IV announced the school’s mandate policy the next day.

“Yesterday the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine for anyone 16 and over, paving the way for LSU to require vaccines for students, faculty and staff,” Tate said. “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.”

Landry has raised additional concerns over religious objections. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, nearly every state allows immunization exemptions regarding religious beliefs. Louisiana is one of only 15 states to also allow for nonreligious, or “personal belief,” exemptions.

“Louisiana law recognizes the right of students to be free from ‘creed’ discrimination, which includes discrimination based on religious beliefs and nonreligious beliefs,” Landry said in a letter to LSU when the mandate policy was floated in May. “Louisiana requires postsecondary institutions to recognize religious and other personal reasons as exemptions to vaccine mandates.”

Lawsuits challenging student vaccine mandates have occurred throughout the country. A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine last month, when several students sued the private medical college located at the University of Louisiana-Monroe.

The students sought religious exemptions and sued after claiming they were retaliated against for not complying. They also objected to the conditions and restrictions that came with being unvaccinated once their religious exemptions were approved during the legal process.

LSU’s vaccinate mandate protocols also delineates between vaccinated and unvaccinated students, although updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states some vaccinated individuals may contract and transmit COVID-19.

“New data began to emerge that the Delta variant was more infectious and was leading to increased transmissibility when compared with other variants, even in some vaccinated individuals,” the CDC recently said. “Fully vaccinated people with Delta variant breakthrough infections can spread the virus to others.”

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