The University of New Mexico is reviewing a proposal to lift its COVID-19 vaccine series administrative mandate for students and employees. The proposal review comes from a recommendation from UNM’s Health Protocols Committee.

“With the recommendations and reasoning of our Health Protocols Committee at front of mind, and after further discussion with UNM administrative and constituent leaders, I am taking under serious consideration a proposal to lift UNM’s mandate requiring the COVID-19 primary vaccine series for students and employees,” said UNM President Garnett S. Stokes.

UNM will offer the campus community an opportunity to hear the latest scientific data and reasoning, ask questions and provide feedback as part of a virtual forum on Thursday, Feb,. 16 at noon with medical experts and campus administrators. Individuals are asked to submit questions or comments in advance of the virtual event by Friday, Feb. 10 at 5 p.m. There will also be an opportunity for Q & A during the session.

The timing of such a decision and its effective date are important to the registration and enrollment procedures that current and new students navigate, and the employment process for current and future job postings. These, and other topics, will be part of the discussion at the virtual forum. Shortly after the session, a link to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) as well as links for submitting any additional questions and commentary will be available.

The Administrative Mandate requiring the COVID-19 vaccine, initially issued on Aug. 5, 2021, was essential during the peak of the pandemic to protect the health of the University as well as communities across New Mexico. The result of the mandate was a very high rate of vaccination across all campuses.

A study released last October from the National Bureau of Economic Research indicates that colleges’ vaccine mandates appeared to have a substantial effect on county-level COVID-19 infection and death rates, likely reducing total U.S. deaths from the virus by about five percent in fall of 2021.

“While we know that COVID-19 is not over and that we must remain vigilant in protecting ourselves against the virus, it is transitioning into a more manageable endemic phase in our state and across the country,” said Stokes. “As our understanding of the virus and the ways in which we manage it evolve, we are continuing to adhere to the science-based decision-making process we have followed from the very beginning of the pandemic.

Regardless of the path UNM pursues with the Administrative Mandate, the UNM Health and Health Sciences programs, including clinical areas, will continue to maintain their COVID-19 vaccine requirements. UNM will also continue to strongly recommend that all Lobos remain up to date with the most recent vaccine or booster available as a barrier to serious illness.

“My sincerest gratitude to all of you for your continued diligence. Through your efforts, UNM has led in setting a high bar for safety and well-being during the pandemic,” added Stokes. “I am confident that, together, we will continue to serve our students and the citizens of New Mexico by providing world-class education, research, and health care, imbued with intellectual curiosity and compassion.”