After FDA approval, vaccine mandates for LSU, Tiger Stadium; other local schools still navigating the news

LSU students will be asked to submit proof of their first COVID-19 vaccination by Sept. 10 and proof of full vaccination by Oct. 15, university officials announced this week.

LSU will also require all Tiger Stadium guests 12 and older to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to entry. The policy will be in effect beginning on Sept. 11 for the home football opener against McNeese State. (Read more here about how the requirement will work.)

LSU is the first major educational institution in Baton Rouge to announce a COVID-19 vaccination requirement following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s granting of full approval for one of the available vaccines, though state law prevents schools from instituting a hard mandate, according to LSU.

“The FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer vaccine for anyone 16 and over, paving the way for LSU to now require vaccines for students, faculty and staff,” LSU President William Tate says in a prepared statement to the university community. “Louisiana law allows for students to opt out of vaccinations, and those who choose this route will be required to be tested for COVID on a regular basis. While the law does not allow the same for university employees, it does provide certain exemptions including for medical reasons.”

State law requires students to comply with the state health department-approved vaccine schedule for various diseases unless their “parent or guardian submits either a written statement from a physician stating that the procedure is contraindicated for medical reasons, or a written dissent from the student or his parent or guardian is presented.”

LSU employees beginning Sept. 7 will be able to submit proof of vaccination or complete a vaccine accommodation request form for an exemption. Like students, those employees who are exempted from vaccinations will still be required to be tested for COVID on a regular basis, Tate says.

As of mid-afternoon Tuesday, neither Southern University nor Baton Rouge Community College had announced vaccine requirements.

“BRCC plans to continue enforcing the statewide mask mandate for in-person classes at our college, and using the daily COVID symptom screening tools at our campuses,” spokesperson Kizzy Payton says by email. “Additionally, we will continue to engage in aggressive campaigns to encourage vaccination by students, faculty, and staff as well as individual testing.”

Southern University System officials are “still meeting on some items to determine any new COVID-19 protocols and policies moving forward in light of the FDA’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine,” spokesperson Janene Tate says by email. In the meantime, the university continues to encourage vaccination and testing, which are available at several on-campus locations, she says.

The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board has voted to begin weekly testing of all employees and allow for optional testing of students with parental consent, according to the system’s website. System employees also will be asked to provide their COVID-19 vaccination status through a private online portal by Sept. 15.

The Diocese of Baton Rouge, which oversees many Catholic schools in the region, is not “focusing on any vaccine mandates,” Deacon Dan Borné says via text message. The diocese’s updated COVID-19 protocols include face mask requirements for K-12 students and adults while indoors, physical distancing and cohort groupings to minimize contact between groups and individuals, and quarantines in some cases, among other measures.

Catholic High School President Gene Tullier says his school has not implemented COVID-19 vaccine requirements but is strongly encouraging faculty, staff and eligible students to get vaccinated. The school is enforcing the state’s indoor mask mandate and taking distancing precautions, he says.

“The situation for the last year-and-a-half has been extremely fluid,” Tullier says. “What we decide today, we have learned, we may revise tomorrow.”

The FDA on Monday granted full approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, which will be marketed as Comirnaty, for anyone age 16 or older. The vaccine continues to be available under an emergency use authorization for children ages 12-15.

This story originally appeared in an Aug. 24 edition of Daily Report. To keep up with Baton Rouge business and politics, subscribe to the free Daily Report e-newsletter here.

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