President Joe Biden has announced plans to sign an executive order that would require all businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure that all of those employees are vaccinated or tested for COVID-19 once a week. However, each state is different, and Drake University Provost Sue Mattison said that the executive order contradicts state legislation passed in May.
“Drake University is unable to mandate vaccines because of an Iowa state law passed in May that would deny state funds to schools that mandate COVID-19 vaccines,” Mattison said.
Mattison said that overlooking the state law would affect 30% of the Drake student body, so the university is complying.
“The legislation has an impact on state funding, which causes serious financial challenges for students from Iowa who receive the Iowa Tuition Grant,” Mattison said. “We will not jeopardize student aid and have instead focused on incentives and strongly encouraging vaccinations.”
Drake Chief of Staff Nate Reagen said that the university has seen continued benefits from its efforts to increase vaccination numbers, such as prize drawings for vaccinated students.
“We’ve been able to achieve 87% of on-campus students having submitted a vaccination record,” Reagan said. “That’s amazing! Thus, our efforts as a whole have certainly helped increase our numbers.”
While the Iowa state law looms on, Provost Mattison said that the university knows the situation is fluid, and they are looking into the effects of the executive order issued by President Biden.
“We have attorneys who are currently examining legal implications of the mandate, especially as it relates to OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] requirements,” Mattison said.
For now, though, the university will continue to encourage vaccinations through education and incentives.
“Faculty from the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences have had virtual information sessions to answer questions and address myths and rumors,” Mattison said. “The most commonly asked question from college students relates to the impact of vaccination on fertility. There is no scientific evidence or biological plausibility that the vaccine causes infertility in women or men, and no evidence that vaccination impacts pregnancy.”
Drake vaccination clinic administers booster shots, plans for vaccinating children
Although a vaccine mandate is currently out of the picture, Drake announced in a COVID-19 update on Oct. 1 that it would offer third doses of Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine to its employees.
“Education staff,” including “teachers, support staff, and day care workers,” is one of the groups that the Center of Disease Control and Prevention has said may receive a third dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.
Drake faculty and staff, including student workers, had the opportunity to receive a “limited number” of third doses during a series of vaccination clinics at the Harkin Center during the first two weeks of October, according to the COVID-19 update.
“Today, at our clinic, we have some people that are coming for first, and some that are coming for the third dose booster,” Drake professor of pharmacy practice Michelle Bottenberg said on Oct. 8. “So, we had I think options for 24 slots, and not all of them filled, so we opened it up to the public, so… non-Drake folks [could] come here.”
Bottenberg said that when Drake first began administering COVID-19 vaccinations, the clinic only had access to the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Therefore, she said, many people from Drake and the surrounding community who received a Moderna vaccine at the clinic more than six months ago must wait for the emergency authorization of a third dose of Moderna’s vaccine.
“But we know, coming up here, once Moderna gets the okay, we know we’re going to have a lot of people who want third [doses],” Bottenberg said.
In an Oct. 7 tweet, Pfizer said it had applied for Emergency Use Authorization for children aged 5-12 to receive the company’s COVID-19 vaccine. Bottenberg said the clinic staff is looking forward to the Food and Drug Administration’s upcoming decision about whether to grant emergency authorization.
“I think we’ve come this far,” Bottenberg said. “It’s just another tool in our arsenal, and I can’t wait to protect our kids.”
Bottenberg said that Oct. 10 was the last day the clinic offered flu vaccines, but the clinic is planning to continue offering COVID-19 vaccines in the future.
“When we open it up to these new populations, there’s probably going to be another rush for those that want it,” Bottenberg said. “But at least now I feel like we have way more supply to handle that.”