The University of Texas Medical Branch won’t require its employees and students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 — walking back a policy officials announced last month — after a U.S district court judge temporarily halted federal rules applying to millions of health care workers nationwide.
The change came mere days before a Dec. 6 deadline requiring employees to have received a first vaccine dose to continue working at medical branch facilities.
The medical branch informed employees and students Wednesday it wouldn’t enforce the vaccination requirement, according to a letter from President Ben Raimer.
The policy change came after a federal judge in Louisiana issued a temporary injunction against a Biden administration rule that would have required 17 million health care workers around the country to get vaccinated by Jan. 4.
A temporary injunction is an order issued while a final ruling is pending in the court.
“We have paused the implementation of the federal vaccine mandate and will wait for the court’s ruling,” spokesman Chris Smith Gonzalez said.
The federal deadline had been imposed on all institutions accepting Medicare and Medicaid payments through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
As of Nov. 30, 81 percent of the medical branch’s 13,800 employees had received at least one dose of vaccine or been granted exemptions, Smith Gonzalez said.
When the medical branch announced its mandate in November, at least 90 percent of its 3,500 students were fully vaccinated, officials said.
Had employees not proven they’d received a first dose or gotten an exemption by Dec. 6, they would have been required to use leave, then be placed on unpaid leave until they complied, officials said.
Medical branch administrators were unsure how many employees would have received notice they were noncompliant had the mandate gone into effect Dec. 6, Smith Gonzalez said.
President Joe Biden announced in September he had requested various federal agencies to develop vaccination requirements for companies with 100 or more employees, for companies that do business with the federal government and for millions of health care workers.
In November, Louisiana, along with 13 other states, sued the federal government over the vaccination mandates.
In October, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, in opposition to Biden’s order, issued an executive order expanding his prohibition on vaccination mandates to include private as well as public employers. Texas last week sued the Biden administration over the mandate for companies with 100 or more employees.