In considering a vaccine mandate for employees, UH enters uncharted territory

Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 5:15 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The University of Hawaii’s newly announced COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students took months of planning and discussion.

Getting a rule on the books for employees is poised to be much more difficult.

UH students are already required to get a slew of vaccinations from measles to hepatitis in order to attend class on campus. UH announced Monday a COVID vaccination will just be added to the list.

UH President David Lassner says the university’s history of requiring medical clearances for students sets clear precedent to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for students this fall.

“We also think having the vaccines at least one of them fully approved by the FDA strengthens our defense should someone choose to sue us,” Lassner told Hawaii News Now on Tuesday.

But any potential requirement for employees is completely different and would be a major challenge. Currently, no vaccines are required for university employees but some do need to get a TB test.

While UH hopes to mandate the COVID vaccine for employees, unions for professors, staff members and others would have to agree to it.

“Any mandate that would impact terms and conditions of employment would require negotiations through the collective bargaining process,” said Christian Fern, executive director of University of Hawaii Professional Assembly.

Lassner said the university has started conversations with unions.

“They are willing to engage in the discussion,” he said.

Fern added, “We want to work with the university and be able to come to an agreement on what is in the best interest of the entire UH community.”

Lassner says of the more than 360 universities that are requiring COVID vaccinations, less than half of them are mandating it for employees

HGEA had no comment about a possible mandate and the UPW didn’t respond to HNN’s inquiry.

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