As the vaccine mandate deadline is approaching, nearly 90 percent of employees and more than 95 percent of students at Washington State University (WSU) are already vaccinated against COVID-19, the university has announced.
According to the university, of some 10,000 full and part-time WSU employees systemwide, 88 percent were fully or partially vaccinated against COVID-19 since October 5, Erudera.com reports.
WSU President Kirk Schulz said that vaccination rates at the university are now high, adding that vaccination is the only path to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With a critical state deadline approaching for our employees, we’ve sought to work through pockets of hesitancy and uncertainty with compassion and understanding but with a firm commitment to making sure we’re doing everything possible to deliver a robust in-person educational experience,” Schulz said.
Governor of Washington Jay Inslee announced that all state employers must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or receive a medical or religious exemption by October 18.
At WSU, employees who sought exemptions for religious or medical reasons were required to submit requests by October 4 in order to give the university sufficient time to evaluate the requests before the deadline.
Meanwhile, students were urged to apply for a medical or religious exemption or submit their vaccination status until September 10. According to the university, those who failed to comply will not be able to enroll in the upcoming spring semester.
Out of 1,250 requests for medical and religious exemptions made by students and employees, 800 have been approved so far by WSU. As the review process is still continuing, the final number of exemptions will be published after October 18.
“The requests for religious exemptions are evaluated in a “blind” review process, meaning the identities of the individuals requesting exemptions are unknown to the members of the review committee except in instances when additional information is needed through follow-up contact. Separate review committees were created for students and employees,” the university points out.
Most students have submitted proof of vaccination or requested an exemption, but percentages vary by campus. At the Pullman and Spokane campuses, vaccination rates reached 98 percent. By October 6, WSU Pullman reported only eight COVID-19 active cases among students and employees.
The university further stressed that student requests will be reviewed by a committee with expertise in religion and other fields. Whereas, religious employee requests are reviewed by a committee consisting of team members from WSU Human Resource Services and the university’s Office of Civil Rights and Compliance.