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WSU, KU, K-State pause vaccine mandates following federal court decision

Matt Stamey/Wichita Journalism Collaborative

A federal judge issued an injunction to delay the implementation of a nationwide vaccine mandate covering federal contractors.

Three major universities in Kansas, including Wichita State, are suspending a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for employees following a court decision Tuesday in Georgia.

U.S. District Judge Stan Baker issued an injunction to halt the implementation of a nationwide vaccine mandate for employees of any business or university that has a contract with the federal government. Baker is an appointee of former President Donald Trump.

As a result, the University of Kansas, Kansas State and Wichita State all paused their employee vaccine mandates.

WSU President Rick Muma said in a statement Tuesday that the university is still encouraging employees to get the vaccine, even if it’s not required.

Both students and employees can get their shots for free on campus.

“We have all become accustomed during this COVID-19 crisis to adapting and pivoting quickly when needed,” Muma said. “This is yet another example where our university community continues to demonstrate their commitment to compliance, the health and safety of our community, and adjusting when necessary.”

The injunction came after Republican leaders from seven states, including Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, filed a lawsuit on Oct. 29 arguing that the vaccine mandate issued by President Joe Biden exceeded federal authority.

Schmidt, who is running for Kansas governor, praised the decision in a statement on Tuesday.

“Federal courts continue to recognize that these overreaching, one-size-fits all mandates from the Biden administration are unlawful,” Schmidt said. “I continue to encourage Kansans to be vaccinated, but that personal health care decision should be made by each individual and not mandated by the federal government.”

The White House had not yet issued a statement about the court decision as of Tuesday afternoon.

The nationwide vaccine mandate would require millions of workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4.

About 60% of people in the United States are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. State health officials say about 50% of all Kansans are vaccinated.

More than 788,000 people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19 since last year, including more than 6,700 in Kansas.

Daniel Caudill reports on Kansas state government for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service. He was a general assignment reporter for KMUW and a reporter, photographer and digital content manager for The Derby Informer and an editor and reporter for The Sunflower. In the spring of 2020, Daniel helped cover the legislative session in Topeka as an intern for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @CaudillKMUW.