Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
3/22 7pm: WRKF's HD channels have returned to normal operation following a prior outage on Wednesday. Thank you for your understanding.

With Pfizer FDA Approved, LSU To 'Fully Review' Decision Before Implementing COVID Vaccine Mandate

lsu campus
Phoebe Jones/WWNO
Louisiana State University, pictured above, and other colleges have started taking steps in implementing COVID-19 vaccine mandates following the FDA approval of Pfizer on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021.

After federal regulators granted full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Monday, a host of Louisiana government institutions began taking steps to make the vaccine mandatory, including the state’s largest university systems.

But officials at Louisiana State University and other colleges are working through the details on how and when those mandates will be implemented and enforced.

“Now that the FDA has provided approval of Pfizer, we will be communicating logistics to the LSU community soon. We need to fully review the approval from FDA, but plan to implement the mandate on campus,” LSU spokesperson Ernie Ballard said in a tweet.

Ballard added that the university was considering how their new policies would account for students under the age of 16. The current FDA approval is only for people age 16 and older.

In early August, LSU rolled out its COVID-19 mitigation protocols for the fall semester. The university required all students to report their vaccination status upon their return to campus. Unvaccinated students were required to undergo monthly COVID tests.

Prominent faculty members panned the university’s COVID-19 mitigation protocols, and a little more than a week after their release, LSU System President William Tate indicated that the university would add the COVID-19 shot to the list of required vaccinations once it won full FDA approval.

Last week, university officials reported that more than 15,000 LSU students verified their vaccination status with the university. Of those that responded, 84.5 percent said they had received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The University of Louisiana System, which serves nearly 100,000 students across nine institutions, will add the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccinations for students. Students will be required to confirm their vaccination status during the next registration period. That process has concluded for the fall semester, so most will not have to report their status for several months.

A handful of private Louisiana universities mandated the vaccine for their students and faculty before the FDA approval news.

Dillard University, Loyola University, Tulane University, and Xavier University all implemented vaccine mandates over the summer and have experienced low community spread of the coronavirus, even as the rest of the state is facing an overwhelming surge driven by the more transmissible delta variant.

Louisiana state law allows students to seek exemptions from school vaccination requirements for religious or philosophical reasons. The Louisiana Department of Health provides information on the exemption process on its website.

Gov. John Bel Edwards called the FDA’s approval an “historic moment in our journey out of this COVID-19 pandemic.”

“This full FDA approval of the first COVID vaccine follows months of clinical trials and millions upon millions of real-world doses safely administered across the globe,” Edwards said in a statement. “It is my fervent hope that any Louisianan who was waiting for the FDA approval of the vaccine will take action to immediately receive their shot.”

Paul Braun is WRKF's Capitol Access reporter.