SALT LAKE CITY — An online petition calling for University of Utah leaders to implement a vaccine mandate had more than 1,000 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.
The petition was started by Unsafe U, an advocacy group focused on campus safety.
“Our driving force behind this particular effort is knowing that this will be a tricky policy to implement logistically and that it may be unpopular with the public and legislators, even if it is legally permissible. We are hoping to (1) raise awareness that HB 308 has essentially expired and opened the door for this possibility and (2) show that there is overwhelming support from students, faculty, community members, parents, and alumni for the U adopting a vaccine mandate,” a spokesperson for the group said.
A vaccine mandate is not off the table, University of Utah spokesperson Chris Nelson said.
“I think the preference on campus would be to have some sort of requirement, but we haven’t done that yet and we wouldn’t do that without working closely with legislative leaders,” he said.
There are currently discussions about from state leaders and the Utah System of Higher Education about a potential vaccine mandate for public universities. During a meeting Thursday, members of Utah System of Higher Education were in favor of a vaccine mandate, but no decisions have been made.
Unsafe U has shared the online petition with University of Utah leaders, a spokesperson said via email.
“Our hope is that the university leadership can include testimonies and the evidence of support as a push to make the decision to implement a vaccine mandate on campus. We have also shared these stories to try to motivate students or employees reading the petition who are on the fence about the impact that being unvaccinated has on the lives of those in our community,” the spokesperson said.
About 70 percent of students and 80 percent of faculty and staff are fully vaccinated against the Coronavirus, Nelson said. Those statistics are received by the university from the health department by comparing the student registry. Individual’s vaccination status remains anonymous.
Students who spoke with FOX 13 had mixed reactions about whether or not vaccines should be required.
“I feel like people should be able to have an opinion whether they want to take the vaccine or not,” one student said who is against vaccines being mandated,” J.P. Parks said.
Another student said he is hopeful the school will issue the mandate.
“For everyone’s sake, I think we have to get vaccinated,” Jaewoong Ree said.
University of Utah student Alissa Rodolico said she is against anyone being forced to be vaccinated.
“I don’t think it should be required for anyone but if you want to do it, it’s your choice,” she said.
Biology Major Morgan Layton said she would feel better if people were vaccinated.
“I would really prefer for people to get vaccinated. I think there is a lot of good coming from it, and I am a Biology major so I am all for vaccines,” she said.
Right now, the university is focused on education, Nelson said.
“We are doing everything we can to convince, to talk, to educate that remaining group to get vaccinated,” he said.
A decision on a vaccine mandate will be made in the coming weeks, Nelson said.