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Vaccine mandates taking effect in some settings while other Mississippians continue to push back

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 10:03 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 19, 2021 at 10:04 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) -As debates heat up over COVID-19 vaccine mandates, we’re checking in on the status of those requirements at various places in Mississippi.

Hospitals around the state were some of the first to announce vaccine mandates. The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s deadline has passed, and they tell us they have 99.8% percent of employees vaccinated, 4% of those received an accommodation. One employee has been terminated.

St. Dominic is at 83% compliance with a deadline of November 30.

With two weeks to go until their deadline, 88% percent of Mississippi Baptist Medical Center employees in Jackson are vaccinated. 85% are vaccinated system-wide.

“We actually take everybody’s situation into account, but one would hope that we would see a high uptake in healthcare personnel because those people have watched too many people die,” described Dr. Steve Threlkeld, Baptist Memorial Health Care Medical Director for Infectious Disease.

Rep. Dan Eubanks filed a bill this past legislative session that would ban vaccines as a condition of employment. He’ll try filing it again in January along with other vaccine-related legislation.

“Hold financially responsible any business in Mississippi, that feels that they have the right to force an employee to take a vaccine against their will in order to hold on to their job or be able to provide for their family,” described Eubanks. “And if any injury or death results from the mandate, that they would be responsible.”

But with the legislature not in session, Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson signed an order this week saying no mandates will apply to his employees, contracted workers, or visitors to their properties.

“I think what people need to understand is, this is not anti-vaccine, it’s anti-mandate, it’s pro-freedom,” explained Commissioner Andy Gipson. “And if we don’t step up and speak up for our freedoms, in America, in Mississippi, we’re gonna wake up one morning, and our freedoms will be gone.”

Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney says he’s encouraging employees to get the vaccine, but it’s not mandated.

“I don’t think the federal mandate would apply in our case because you’re talking about state rights — are rights of the agencies to run their own departments,” said Chaney.

We reached out to other statewide elected officials to see if they had plans to put similar measures as Gipson in place.

“Auditor White will not require a vaccine as a condition of employment at the State Auditor’s office,” said Auditor Shad White’s office.

“I do not believe in government mandates and refuse to force any employee to receive a vaccine they don’t want,” said Treasurer David McRae. “Personally, I am fully vaccinated. I believe the vaccines work and that vaccination was the right decision for me and my family. But I also believe in personal responsibility and individual liberty, which is why there will be no vaccine mandate within the Mississippi Treasury.

In September, Attorney General Lynn Fitch and 23 State Attorneys General sent a letter to President Biden to say they are opposed to his announced plans to institute vaccine mandates.

“Forcing Americans to be vaccinated or face job loss is the sort of heavy-handed, government-knows-best approach we have come to expect from this Administration,” said Attorney General Lynn Fitch. “I encourage people to be vaccinated, but they need to decide for themselves when they are ready. They do not need the White House to decide for them.”

In the interest of full disclosure, our parent company Gray Television has a vaccine requirement for employees of all its stations, including WLBT.

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