In a reversal from two weeks ago, University of Alaska Interim President Pat Pitney says that Alaska’s higher education campuses, research sites, and contractors will need to be vaccinate for Covid-19.
“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,” said Pitney. “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.”
The decision is in response to President Biden’s executive order (EO) 14042, Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors, which requires all employees paid by or supporting new or modified federal contracts to be vaccinated by early December. The order requires not only people directly paid by federal contracts, but also anyone who works to support them or works in the same facility to get a Covid vaccine.
UAF currently has $200 million in multi-year federal contracts impacted by the executive order, and expects close to $100 million more in the coming months. UAF competes nationally for many of these contracts. While neither the University of Alaska Anchorage nor University of Alaska Southeast face federal contract modifications at this time, UA continues to evaluate the situation and may have to extend the requirement to employees in other UA locations to comply with new contract modifications or other federal funding stipulations.
The university is also monitoring several legal challenges to the executive order. The Arizona and Florida attorneys general have both challenged the order in federal court and requested temporary restraining orders to halt implementation. Late last week, Alaska joined several other states in challenging the order. Pitney said she supports the State of Alaska’s efforts to challenge the scope of the executive order.
A court injunction on vaccine requirements resulting from any of the pending legal actions will not impact this vaccination requirement. The university will be bound to those conditions until the contracts are concluded or future modifications or executive orders are enacted.