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The FDA’s Non-Emergency Approval Of Pfizer Opens The Door For Potential Vaccine Mandates In Utah

A photo of bottles labeled with COVID-19 vaccine.
Daniel Schludi
The Pfizer vaccine was approved for non-emergency use from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday.

Utah government agencies, like universities, can now issue COVID-19 vaccine mandates but only for the Pfizer vaccine. It comes after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the non-emergency use of the vaccine Monday for people 16 years old and up.

Utah Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy, sponsored the House bill that prohibited the state government from creating COVID vaccine mandates under “emergency usage.” He said it no longer applies.

“Essentially what happens is the COVID vaccine will be considered like every other vaccine in the state where it's not prohibited from governments mandating it,” Spendlove said.

He said vaccine requirements often exist in schools or universities. But if government agencies choose to enact a mandate, he said they have to allow broad exemptions like religious, medical or personal reasons.

Even though they can, not many higher education institutions are planning to create a COVID vaccine mandate immediately.

Garyn Gulbranson, director of the Dixie State University Booth Wellness Center, said it's not on the university’s agenda.

We've been trying to work under the parameters that we've been given following local, state public health guidelines and then also laws from the state Legislature,” Gulbranson said. “[We currently don't plan to] at this time, but we are waiting and watching to see what will happen.”

He said they’re encouraging students and faculty to get vaccinated if they haven’t already. The university is also hosting pop clinics on campus to support vaccination efforts on campus.

A representative from Utah State University said they plan to work with the Utah System of Higher Education to evaluate the situation.

Other colleges, like the University of Utah, say they’ve been working with state leaders and lawmakers to look at their legal options.

“The university is absolutely looking at this as an opportunity,” said Lori McDonald, vice president for student affairs, “but we're going to make sure that we've talked to lots of people with input on how that might work if we were to do that.”

Spendlove said he doesn’t have any immediate plans to introduce legislation that would stop vaccine mandates.

What I'm going to be watching closely is how governments use this authority that they have,” he said. “And if we see signs of abuse, then we'll have to come in and change the law.”

Moderna announced Wednesday it has also completed its submission for non-emergency use of their vaccine to the FDA.

Ivana is a general assignment reporter
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