Policy in works to require vaccines or an approved exemption


Chancellor Patrick Gallagher announced during the Oct. 14 Senate Council meeting that Pitt is drafting an interim vaccine enforcement policy.


For the period of Oct. 13-19, Pitt reported COVID-19 cases at all campuses:

Oakland: 29 students / 13 employees

Bradford: 5 students / 2 employees

Greensburg: 6 students / 0 employees

Johnstown: 2 students / 1 employee

This week, a University spokesman reiterated the point: “Working with faculty, staff and student leaders through the shared governance process, the University will soon propose an interim policy for the spring semester that would require all Pitt affiliates on all campuses to be either vaccinated or granted an approved exemption.”

At Senate Council, Gallagher attributed the 90 percent vaccination rates across Pitt’s campuses to the “robust” mandatory infection control programs, including limiting building access and requiring the weekly submission of COVID-19 tests for people who decide to not get the vaccine.

However, he acknowledged that high-frequency testing of unvaccinated people and “turning our buildings into access control facilities using card readers is not a sustainable approach for the long haul.”

The chancellor previously has said that the cost to the University of testing every unvaccinated person once a week, as well as some randomized testing and for those who are symptomatic, is estimated at $20 million to $50 million. 

The Pitt community needs to consider how to live with COVID-19 as a long-term issue, he added, and “our plan is to continue to look at other ways in which that enforcement could work.”

This could include making vaccination a prerequisite to enroll at Pitt or tying it to “some aspect of employment for faculty, staff and other employees of the University, he said.

And with the spring 2022 semester quickly approaching, Gallagher said a draft of an interim policy is in the works and will go through an expedited review process “fairly soon.” This interim policy will later have to be bolstered by a full policy, he added.

Penn State in the past two weeks has changed its stance and said that all faculty and staff at its main campus and six regionals where federal contract work is conducted — Altoona, DuBois, Erie, Fayette, Harrisburg and Media — will have to be vaccinated by Dec. 8. The decision reflects Penn State’s interpretation of President Joe Biden's Sept. 9  requirement that all federal employees, contractors and others must get the shot, according to the Post-Gazette. Other schools, like Tennessee and Virginia, are making similar changes to their vaccine requirements.

Pitt, like Penn State, has millions of dollars of federal contracts through the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and other agencies.

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at dharrell@pitt.edu or 412-383-9905.


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