BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The three campuses of the University of Alabama System and Auburn University will require employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by Dec. 8, the schools said in a joint statement Friday.
The schools said the Alabama campuses in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, Huntsville and Auburn all are federal contractors, so they have to comply with an executive order signed last month by President Joe Biden. Employees have to get the shots unless they have approved exemption on medical, disability or religious grounds.va
The state GOP asked lawmakers to pass legislation opposing the federal rule, but the schools said they couldn’t afford not to follow the mandate.
“Failure to comply will place our universities in jeopardy of losing hundreds of millions of dollars received through federal contracts and awards, as well as thousands of jobs funded by those dollars. This outcome would severely impact our institutions’ teaching, research and service capabilities and could hamper economic development activity,” said the statement.
While thousands of school workers already have gotten shots, the mandate could help boost Alabama’s overall vaccination rate. The University of Alabama System employs more than 45,000 people, according to its website, and Auburn employs about 13,000 people including student workers.
About 42% of the state’s population of 5 million is fully vaccinated, statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. Vaccinations increased during the summertime surge caused by the highly contagious delta variant, but they have since declined to the lowest point since vaccines were first available late last year.
More than 818,000 people have contracted COVID-19 in Alabama, and more than 15,370 have died, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.