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.

Keri Heath: 409-683-5241; or on Twitter @HeathKeri.



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(16) comments

Emman Sull


Sue Emmite


Carlos Ponce

Leave your health concerns between you and your health care provider. There was only one reason why UTMB initially succumbed to the so called "mandate". The threat of losing Federal funds was the overriding concern, not the health of employees.

Russell Rac

Honestly? At this point I'm not very concerned with the health of the employees. I'm concerned with the health of the patients. So should the Healthcare workers that come in direct contact with said patients. That should be the main priority. For the hospital.

UTMB can do without a few employees. Without patients however, there is no need for the facility.

Carlos Ponce

Honestly, Russell Rac, since the hospital has not had in-house infections from those employees without the jab. Just using standard hospital procedure is doing its job.

Can UTMB do without those employees? You would place an undue burden upon the rest and jeopardize the health of those entering the hospital.

Ted Gillis

You’re a liar Carlos. You don’t know that to be fact.

Carlos Ponce

Ted, use common sense.

Suppose UTMB really thought the vaccine would help, why wait until December 6 to mandate it?

The vaccine has been available to those engaged in health care since January:

"Among the vaccinated have been front-line medical workers, who were the highest priority recipients for the first shipments of vaccine" January 5, 2021 GCDN

If UTMB really believed in the vaccine does that mean their patients have been endangered in the intervening months without a "mandate"?

Let's say the "mandate" was still in place. Would that have meant patients would be safer on January 6th than today? Answer: No.

Gary Scoggin

Ted, whether or not he knows something as a fact is irrelevant to the pitiful troll. He just wants to sound important by saying something that makes him appear knowledgeable. It helps his low self esteem.

Carlos Ponce

Another with no common sense?

Robert Braeking


Bailey Jones


Walter Dannenmaier

You are right, Bailey! It was grossly irresponsible to rush vaccines to market without completing safety studies and it is reprehensible to force people to take them in face of their demonstrated inefficacy.

Bailey Jones

Those trolling lessons are really paying off, Walter! You might have a chance to beat reigning Queen Carlos at this year's Miss Information Pageant. (I hear there's going to be a swimsuit competition.)

Carlos Ponce

Bailey has a sick mind.

Robert Braeking

As more data is found, and it isn't easy to find the suppressed data, many side effects are surfacing. There is a study in England that indicates that the vaccines increase arterial plaque buildup which increases heart attack likelihood. I certainly would not want to exacerbate a condition of heart disease with a preparation that is ineffective at stopping, preventing spread and preventing death from a virus that is 99.7% survivable. Taking such an injection is not responsible. It is stupid.

Ted Gillis

You both are spreading disinformation. Most of it coming from Russia.

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