The University of New Mexico is no longer requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for its students and employees effective March 13, according to an email that the Office of the President’s communications team sent out last month.
The announcement follows evaluation of public health guidance and a COVID-19 vaccination information session and Q&A, which was streamed via Zoom in February. The requirements are to be maintained for UNM Health and Health Sciences programs and clinical areas.
“As our understanding of the virus and the ways in which we manage it evolve, we are continuing to adhere to the science-based decision-making process we have followed from the very beginning of the pandemic,” UNM President Garnett Stokes wrote in the statement.
The University’s medical experts have determined that COVID-19 is no longer a pandemic and is now in its endemic phase. It likely will not disappear and instead will continue to circulate the population similar to the flu, according to the communications team.
Abigail Parker, a junior in anthropology, said she feels disappointed. Parker currently has three boosters in addition to her original two shots, and worries about the effects of this decision.
“I was proud of the University when they first chose to have the vaccine mandate, and again when they required the first booster,” Parker said. “But even knowing the University wasn’t requiring the bivalent booster was risky. Lifting not only the mask mandate but the vaccine mandate completely pushes aside everyone in the chronically ill and disabled communities.”
The mandate was initially issued on Aug. 5, 2021. It resulted in a high vaccination rate among students on all campuses. This was essential for protecting the community both inside and outside of the University, according to Stokes.
Lauren Sanchez, a psychology student, is more accepting of this decision. However, she said that this lift may make people less likely to receive the follow-up booster shots.
“We understand COVID a lot better now,” Sanchez said. “UNM is a huge medical school, so I have faith that they know when the best time to lift it would be.”
UNM’s Bringing Back the Pack website was also retired effective March 13. It was created during the pandemic as a resource where students could find the latest information on COVID-19, vaccinations and updates from the university. The website is now replaced by a link to COVID-19 Updates and Answers, which can be accessed from UNM’s home page.
The FAQ still encourages students to speak with their healthcare providers about which options are best for them and encourages students to recieve the vaccine and its boosters.
“We continue to strongly recommend that the entire Lobo community should keep up-to-date with vaccinations, stay at home if sick, and follow CDC guidelines for all COVID-19 matters,” Stokes wrote.
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Lauren Lifke is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at email@example.com