The University of New Mexico is encouraging all Lobos to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to campus for the fall semester on Aug. 23. The University has set a 100% vaccination rate goal after forgoing a campus-wide vaccine mandate.
“I look forward to challenging and inspiring ourselves and our fellow Lobos to reach for that 100% in the coming weeks,” UNM President Garnett Stokes wrote in a campus-wide message on July 8.
The University has an ongoing incentive program that offers students and employees the chance for cash prizes in exchange for proof of vaccination. Students will have $100 distributed in their bursar’s account and employees will be entered to win one of 50 prizes worth $1,000 each once proof is uploaded.
“I would just encourage students to: one, get vaccinated and two, make sure they’re reporting it and get that free $100,” Associated Students of the University of New Mexico President Greg Romero said.
UNM affiliates can announce their vaccine status on UNM’s COVID-19 dashboard, and 11,139 people have reported that they are vaccinated as of July 24. Romero said it’s important for students to report their vaccination status so the University can collect accurate data.
The vaccine is still classified under Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA, which not all students who require accommodations can receive, according to Stokes' message.
If the vaccine is approved for regular use in the future, chief marketing and communications officer Cinnamon Blair said UNM will still be focused on the incentive program for the upcoming semester. If guidelines change and the severity of the pandemic increases, UNM would pivot and reexamine their current policies.
“What we’re looking at (is) to create a culture of efficacy. (The concern is) definitely COVID, but we also want to think about ‘How do you protect people in your community from flu?’ you know, not coming to class or not coming to work when you’re sick,” Blair said.
In May, the University drafted a proposal that would have required most UNM attendees to be vaccinated which has since been turned down. UNM was the only public university in New Mexico that proposed a written vaccination policy to require campus-wide vaccinations, according to Blair.
This non-mandate for COVID-19 vaccinations has drawn a variety of responses from the local community, with some saying this decision will result in negative health repercussions, and others applauding the vaccination choice UNM students and employees can make.
“I 100% support UNM students getting vaccinated, whether it is mandated or whether it’s not,” Romero said. “I think that is going to be the key to us having a successful semester and successful year that students think it should be.”
According to Blair, the community has proven that being vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and others against COVID-19; if a student or employee still has reservations regarding being on campus without a vaccine mandate, there are options.
“If somebody needs an accommodation, they can work with the Office of Compliance, Ethics and Equal Opportunity to explore telecommuting or other accommodations,” Blair said.
Romero encouraged students who are more doubtful of the vaccine to research more information on the topic and to also look into the differences that various producers offer. If they still remain wary, he said “at this point where we don’t have it mandated, I would just really, really encourage them to keep others safe and wear a mask on our campus.”
The COVID-19 delta variant has been making waves as a dangerous factor in the battle against the virus across the world. But even without a vaccine requirement, Blair said there is consistent communication and monitoring at UNM.
“We have a health advisory committee because we’re fortunate enough to have an academic health center as part of our campus,” Blair said. “We meet weekly to discuss where we are with COVID; as we get this data, we’re going to have a lot of information to make decisions.”
Romero commented on how well UNM Student Health and Counseling has been doing in terms of their COVID-19 information dashboard and encouraged students to stay updated on vaccine information.
“UNM SHAC has done an awesome job in terms of keeping updated information (and) being a really good resource for students,” Romero said.
Similar to the way things have been handled in the past year and a half, UNM will continue to follow state and CDC guidelines in regard to restrictions, Blair said.
The University will hold vaccine clinics at select special events, such as move-in days and Welcome Back Week.
Megan Gleason is the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @fabflutist2716
Emma Trevino is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @itsemmatr