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Higher education employee COVID vaccination rate jumps to 75 percent ahead of planned mandate

Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
CoronavirusHigher Education

Just days after the Board of Regents voted to green light a process that could end with a wide-reaching COVID vaccine mandate for higher education employees, the system announced Wednesday that its system-wide employee vaccination rate had surpassed 75 percent. 

Wednesday’s numbers represent a nearly 20-point surge from initial system-wide vaccination tallies reported last week of just 56 percent of nearly 24,000 employees.

Among all institutions, UNR led with the largest week-to-week change of nearly 27 percent, rising from less than 53 percent to more than 79 percent. Other increases averaged around 16 percent greater than last week’s initial data showed, and all Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) institutions reported that more than 65 percent of employees were vaccinated. 

Though the system attributed some of the increase to additional vaccinations initiated after the first data dump on Sept. 7, a system statement also pointed to Wednesday’s increase as a sweeping correction to the underlying data. 

In testimony to regents during a committee meeting last week, system General Counsel Joe Reynolds said incongruities between the state’s vaccination database, WebIZ, and the system’s internal human resources software, Workday, likely created a vast undercount of the number of vaccinated employees. 

A system spokesman also said in a statement that Wednesday’s data reflected the removal of 81 contractors and volunteers from the number of employees who were “not directly paid by NSHE.”

In a statement, system Chancellor Melody Rose urged all system employees and students to get vaccinated “as quickly as possible.” 

“I remain confident that NSHE employees recognize the importance of the vaccination and I believe we will see continued growth in our vaccination rates in the coming weeks,” Rose said. “The science and data have consistently shown that receiving the COVID-19 vaccines continues to be the surest, safest, and most effective way to end the pandemic, and to keep Nevada learning.”

Under a policy announced this summer by Gov. Steve Sisolak, all state employees — including NSHE employees — will be required either to show proof of vaccination or be subject to weekly COVID tests. But the number of NSHE employees includes a number of student employees, who are separately bound by a COVID vaccine mandate for college students seeking to enroll in in-person classes for the spring semester. 

Regents are set to vote to expand that policy to a wide-reaching mandate for all higher education employees, regardless of in-person or at-home work, at a meeting scheduled for Sept. 30. 

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