More people are hearing about the idea of a ‘vaccine passport,’ which would allow people to show proof of vaccination to grant them access to something. Already, vaccine requirements are popping up around the country.
“We do project that things will be a lot better come fall,” explained John Floros, President of New Mexico State University. “I’m really excited to see our campus having our students back and our faculty back and our staff.”
Like others, Floros said he believes the COVID-19 vaccine will play a major role in NMSU’s ability to return to some normalcy. “It’s gonna be really up to the people,” said Floros. “If they get vaccinated and if we can get 80, 85, 90% of our public vaccinated, it’s pretty a sure thing that we’re gonna be back with athletic events, and social events, and everything else.”
“If people don’t want to get vaccinated, and we only have 50% or 60% of people vaccinated, which is what most of the surveys are showing, who knows, we may be exaclty where we are today,” Floros said.
At this point, he said NMSU will not require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to return for the fall semester. However, NMSU will welcome back students to in-person classes in the fall, and Floros anticipates a high vaccine acceptance rate amongst staff, according to a March survey.
New Mexico’s neighbors in Durango, Colorado at Fort Lewis College announced vaccine proof will be required for all students enrolled in the fall semester to return in person.
Even some major sports teams, like the New York Yankees are requiring vaccine proof or a negative COVID test result to attend a game. The Miami Heat announced vaccinated fans will have their own section at games, with eased restrictions. “We’re looking into the legal side of things, and we’re looking into what we can do right here in New Mexico because every state is different,” said Floros.
The University of New Mexico Provost James Holloway tweeted this week, “Want an in-person fall semester? Get vaccinated, Lobos!”
However, UNM said it won’t require proof of vaccine for the fall semester. In an emailed statement, Holloway said, “Right now, we are encouraging our community to get registered to be vaccinated, to give us the best shot (literally) at a healthy fall return to campus. It’s easy, and it’s free. We are not planning to require vaccinations for the fall, but do expect to run major campaigns on campus for flu vaccinations, and, hopefully, for COVID-19 vaccinations in order to ensure high vaccination rates in our population.”
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Central New Mexico Community College said, “At this point, CNM has not made a decision on whether vaccine documentation will be required for in-person classes in the Fall Term.”
KRQE News 13 asked the state about vaccine requirements on Wednesday. “Businesses are free to do it, the state is not in any discussions to try to establish that,” said Dr. David Scrase, Secretary for the Human Services Department.
As far as utilizing technology as opposed to paper proof of vaccine, Dr. Tracie Collins, New Mexico Department of Health Secretary, said that’s something the state can look into. “DOH can certainly look at our app and look to using that to provide verification that someone’s been vaccinated,” said Dr. Collins. “So that’s certainly doable.”
“When you think about how travel and passports in general are handled in America, they’re handled by the federal government,” Dr. Scrase added. “I’m really hoping that the federal government takes leadership on that.”
Certain vaccine requirements for public schools are not a new concept, but it’s worth noting the COVID-19 vaccines are currently under Emergency Use Authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That’s a topic that’s come up in some of the discussions about whether agencies will mandate the vaccine.
Dr. Scrase said the state will also take technology inequities into account moving forward. “We don’t want to set up anything that puts people in our state, our neighbors in our state with less resources, at a disadvantage,” he said.