The Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) Board of Regents voted Thursday afternoon to approve a vaccine mandate for employees at NSHE institutions.
The vote came following hours of public comment and hours of discussion among the regents and NSHE staff.
It passed in a vote of 10-3. Regents Byron Brooks, Patrick Boylan and Lois Tarkanian voted against the vaccine mandate.
Boylan’s comments on the matter were extensive. He questioned why, if vaccines work, the vaccinated employees would need to be concerned about being near their unvaccinated colleagues. He also said that face masks are not effective against the transmission of COVID-19.
About 80% of NSHE employees are vaccinated.
Board of Regents Chair Cathy McAdoo addressed the people in the board chamber prior to the vote. She said she had been opposed to mandates for NSHE students but that it wasn’t her decision to make. She explained that in light of the vaccine mandates for students, she felt instituting the same mandate for employees was the only right thing for the regents to do.
McAdoo said she wanted to address everyone in the room, including the people who’d turned up to provide public comment against the mandate—many of whom cited their religious objections to it.
“I understand. I heard your public comments, and I see you shaking your head no at me,” McAdoo said. “However, I want you to know, everyone in this room, I really get it—that we all have our own passion about this, and we’ve done all of our own research. And I, too, am a believer in God, and many of you spoke about him today. And I honor all of that. However, none of this is easy. Hard work is hard work.”
All NSHE employees will now be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 1 or face termination. Employees can receive a religious or medical exemption. Medical exemptions require documentation from a physician’s assistant, doctor or nurse practitioner. Religious exemptions will require an attestation to a firmly held belief against vaccines and may include an examination of an employee’s past vaccination record to see if they have held firm to said belief.
Unvaccinated NSHE employees can expect to be noticed on Oct. 15. NSHE is able to tell which employees are vaccinated and which are not because it has gained access to that information through the state’s WebIZ immunization information platform.
Those who have not initiated vaccination as of Nov. 1 will be warned. Those who still have not by Dec. 1 will face termination.
Regent Boylan said, “Are we going to be like Grinches at Christmas time? ‘Here you go. Here’s your Christmas present. Off you go. You don’t have a job because you didn’t have the vaccination.’”
The State Board of Health unanimously voted during an emergency meeting on Aug. 20 to require NSHE students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The mandate affects more than 100,000 students in Nevada. Students must get a vaccine before Nov. 1.
Jeri Chadwell came to Reno from rural Nevada in 2004 to study anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2012, she returned to the university for a master’s degree in journalism. She is the former associate and news editor of the Reno News & Review and is a recipient of first-place Nevada Press Association awards for investigative and business reporting. Jeri is passionate about Nevada’s history, politics and communities.