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UA announces vaccine requirement for federally funded and research employees

Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 1:34 PM AKDT|Updated: Nov. 2, 2021 at 6:54 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - University of Alaska Interim President Pat Pitney announced Tuesday that, due to requirements of federal contracts, the university will implement a vaccine requirement for staff who work at research sites or are funded by federal contracts through the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

According to a Tuesday press release, UAF currently has $200 million in multi-year federal contracts and is expecting an additional $100 million in the coming months.

“Without acting on this vaccine requirement, we could lose substantial federal contracts, and with them jobs that support more than 750 employees and their families,” Pitney said in the press release. “In addition, the ripple effect of the loss of these contracts would be widely felt as UAF’s research enterprise works with local contractors and suppliers across the state.”

LIVE: UAF announces vaccine requirement for select employees

UA Interim President Pat Pitney announces that the University of Alaska will require COVID-19 vaccines for employees that are federally funded and those working at research sites at University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Posted by Alaska's News Source on Tuesday, November 2, 2021

The vaccine requirement will apply to employees on the UAF’s Troth Yeddha’ main campus, those at UAF research sites and employees at all locations which are funded by federal contracts. UAF Chancellor Dan White said in a Tuesday afternoon press conference that research sites are located across the state, citing the Poker Flat Research Range north of Fairbanks, the Seward Marine Center and Kasitsna Bay Laboratory near Homer as examples. He said student employees would also fall under the mandate.

The government has given a deadline of Dec. 8 to have employees vaccinated but White said the university is negotiating to see if that can be extended. He said medical and religious exemptions will be available for employees but said, baring a waiver, employees who don’t comply will lose their jobs.

“With respect to what happens on Dec. 8, or shortly after, this vaccination becomes a condition of employment,” White said.

Right now, the University of Alaska Anchorage campus is not requiring vaccinations for all staff — neither UAA nor the University of Alaska Southeast face federal contract modifications at this time, according to the press release.

But Pitney said that could change as more federal funding becomes tied to vaccine mandates.

“We expect additional contract provisions coming forward and potentially Department of Education funding ties to vaccines, and those are very important funding sources for the viability of the university,” Pitney said.

Pitney said they’ll make the call on whether to extend requirements to employees in other University of Alaska locations, when and if that happens.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information and quotes.

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