In a special meeting on Friday trustees of the Institutes of Higher Learning in Mississippi voted not to pass a vaccine mandate at this time for colleges and universities. 

The Mississippi IHL board met for a special meeting on August 27 at noon to discuss the current COVID-19 situation and their stance on the vaccine.

The meeting was held by phone, versus gathering in person. The intent of the gathering was to discuss whether or not colleges and universities would continue encouraging the vaccine or implement a mandate.

While some trustees were in favor of a mandate, it was decided that was not the route to take at this time due to a lack of public support.

Trustee Chip Morgan said that the board would release a statement in support of the vaccines but wait until a later date to impose a mandate. His motion on the matter, which left the language to the staff to provide, passed the group.

“I would like for us to point out our support for the vaccine and that it is by far the greatest protection we have for our schools and that would be faculty, staff and student body,” said Morgan. “At this time it is our view that we would not impose any requirement on the universities to mandate vaccination.”

Dr. Alfred McNair, who reported he is up close and personal with COVID-19 patients daily said that this Delta variant of the virus is impacting younger individuals at a higher rate.

“These young people think they are immune, but actually that’s where the virus is hitting,” said McNair. “The colleges are just wide open for it. I really think this is a health issue and they need to be mandated to vaccinate. This volunteer thing is ridiculous.”

He then compared the situation to if they were coming into school with Polio, they would have no choice but to vaccinate.

Dr. Cunningham also concurred. He said the volunteer aspect is not working among the younger age group. He believes a mandate is the only way to save some of these kids. He indicated that the majority of CT chest scans he is seeing are of those 40 years and younger with double pneumonia at that point.

While numbers in Mississippi seem to have hit a plateau according to MSDH, some trustees expressed concern that with students being piled together at universities and also not vaccinated, it could increase numbers as the school year continues. They also shared concern over future mutations of the virus.

Trustee Starr said it seemed as if Mississippi State University was leading the state in promoting vaccination among faculty and staff. The school was also supporting drives on campus to allow easy access to vaccinations.

Trustee Bruce Martin said it is unlikely that there is any way to get some people vaccinated. He said he didn’t know “how in the world” they would get some individuals vaccinated who had already paid tuition, showed up to school and begun taking classes in an environment with no mandate.

He added that there are just some individuals that will not get vaccinated no matter what the argument for it is.

Trustees Ormella Cummings and Teresa Hubbard both agreed that the IHL should take some form of action to encourage students and faculty to get the vaccine, even if a mandate was not implemented.

“We need a plan to get that message across strongly, encouraging people to get vaccinated. We’ve got to get those numbers up in some way,” said Hubbard. “Especially since people are enrolled and weren’t notified ahead of time.”

Prior to his motion, Trustee Morgan said he believes that public support would come and provide the opportunity to mandate the vaccine. However, he said it would be unwise at this time to try to initiate a mandate.

“I can’t imagine what we went through last year and refunding tuitions and getting into a discussion now with a 17-year-old who was in high school three months ago and now we’re going to write his parents telling them it’s mandatory and he’s got to get it done by October. I just think at this time that would be a terrible mistake even though I fully respect what healthcare providers on this call are saying,” said Morgan.

You can listen to the full meeting below: