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76% of Nevada college students got vaccinated before mandate expired

Updated February 8, 2022 - 6:07 pm

Three-fourths of students in Nevada’s public colleges and universities were vaccinated against COVID-19 before an emergency mandate requiring inoculation expired in December.

In a Feb. 1 memo to the state Department of Health and Human Services, which the Las Vegas Review-Journal obtained through a public records request, the Nevada System of Higher Education provided a breakdown of student vaccination rates by campus.

About 76 percent of NSHE students systemwide — 69,342 of 90,952 — were vaccinated before Dec. 21.

But percentages vary significantly among the system’s eight schools, from 45 percent to 91 percent.

“We are proud of the NSHE students, faculty, and staff who have received the COVID-19 shot,” NSHE Chancellor Melody Rose said in a Tuesday statement to the Review-Journal. “Their decision will go a long way in helping NSHE institutions deliver a safe and effective in-person educational experience.”

The higher education system continues to “strongly encourage” everyone to get vaccinated, she 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 keep Nevada safe and learning,” Rose said.

Western Nevada College in Carson City had the lowest rate, at 45 percent. UNLV had the highest, at 91 percent, followed by the University of Nevada, Reno, at 87 percent.

UNLV spokesman Tony Allen said in a statement Tuesday that the university appreciates the strong commitment by its students and employees “who have worked together with us to navigate this unprecedented pandemic.”

“We’ll continue to work closely with NSHE and other state and local agencies to ensure UNLV complies with all applicable COVID-19 guidelines and requirements,” he said. “The vaccine remains one of the most effective ways to combat COVID-19, and we encourage everyone to get vaccinated or receive a booster to help slow the spread of the pandemic.”

At Nevada State College in Henderson, 65 percent of students were vaccinated.

The enrollment figure on which the rate is based includes online-only students and high school students earning college credits through Nevada State, who also attend classes remotely, the college said in a statement Tuesday to the Review-Journal.

The on-campus student vaccination rate is much higher, 89 percent, the college said.

“We will continue to monitor these numbers and continue to support the efforts of advancing vaccinations for all students and employees,” according to the statement.

At the College of Southern Nevada, which has three Las Vegas Valley campuses, 58 percent of students were vaccinated. The college didn’t have a comment on the numbers Tuesday.

It’s unknown how student vaccination rates across the state have changed since December.

Once the mandate ended, “students were no longer required to report their COVID-19 vaccination status and NSHE’s ability to collect this data ceased,” NSHE Chief General Counsel Joe Reynolds and Caleb Cage, vice chancellor for workforce development and chief innovation officer, wrote in the memo.

The memo doesn’t include information on how many students have an approved medical or religious exemption.

Also, student enrollment includes high school students taking college classes, as well as those taking online-only classes.

In August, the state Board of Health unanimously approved a 120-day emergency measure that required students registering for in-person classes during spring semester to show proof of vaccination, or have an approved medical or religious exemption.

Students had a Nov. 1 deadline to comply, but technically could provide proof until registration ended in January.

In December, the state’s Legislative Commission deadlocked in a 6-6 vote on a permanent regulation, meaning it wasn’t adopted. The item will now go to the Board of Health and then the state would seek to bring a regulation back to the Legislative Commission.

In late December, NSHE regents voted 10-2 to authorize Chancellor Rose, in consultation with Board Chair Carol Del Carlo, to write a letter to Gov. Steve Sisolak, the State Board of Health and the Legislative Commission in support of a student mandate.

During a mid-January meeting, regents voted 9-4 to approve a draft of the letter.

A COVID-19 vaccination mandate for NSHE employees remains in effect. In total, 97 percent of the system’s approximately 22,159 workers were vaccinated as of Jan. 31, according to the memo.

The memo says NSHE doesn’t track how many employees have received a booster shot.

Data posted on the system’s website shows 695 employees, about 3 percent of the workforce, have an approved medical or religious exemption.

Fewer than 400 employees systemwide were fired in late December for not complying with the vaccination mandate.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

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