Despite Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order, UTHealth Houston is the latest state agency to impose President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on its employees and others.
UTHealth is a division of the University of Texas System and falls under the authority of the UT Board of Regents, the Higher Education Coordinating Board, the governor of Texas, and the Texas Legislature.
In an email blast sent just before noon on November 17, UT Health Houston’s president, Giuseppe N. Colasurdo, wrote that due to mandates from the “federal government,” everyone must be vaccinated by January 4, 2022, or face termination. The policy applies to all “faculty, staff, residents, fellows, contractors, vendors, and volunteers.”
While his email does not specifically mention termination, Colasurdo points to UTHealth’s recently “established a COVID-19 Vaccine & Workplace Safety Policy.” That document is password-protected from the general public, but a source has provided Texas Scorecard with the language.
The policy states, “Employees who fail to comply with this policy will be subject to discipline up to and including termination.”
Colasurdo adds that students “are not required to be vaccinated unless they are training at a UTHealth or UT Physicians clinic, UTHealth Houston Harris County Psychiatric Center, or an affiliated hospital that mandates COVID-19 vaccination.”
According to the COVID-19 Vaccine & Workplace policy, students who refuse the vaccine “will lose the ability to continue in a university-sponsored training program or academic program for non-compliance.”
A UTHealth spokeswoman told Texas Scorecard the policy was put in place because of the “billions of dollars worth” of contracts UT has with the federal government.
The Biden mandate as it applies to businesses with 100 or more employees is currently on hold under a ruling from the 5th Circuit, which called it “staggeringly overbroad.” Litigation has been filed by numerous state attorneys general and other parties against the implementation of the controversial policy.
The UTHealth policy provides for exemptions—but only those “defined by the federal government.”