This story was first reported by Louisiana Illuminator and republished with permission.
After telling its students in late August that they must get the COVID-19 vaccine, or provide an exemption, in order to enroll in classes next semester, just five of the nine University of Louisiana system schools have reported student vaccination rates above 50 percent.
McNeese University (24 percent), Grambling State University (41 percent), Southeastern University (41 percent) and the University of Louisiana Lafayette (43 percent) reported that less than half of their students have at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, Cami Geisman, the vice president for external affairs for the UL system, said.
University of Louisiana Monroe (76 percent), University of New Orleans (62 percent), Nicholls State University (54 percent), Louisiana Tech (53 percent) and Northwestern State University (53 percent) reported the highest vaccination rates in the UL system.
Of the over 90,000 students in the UL System, more than half of them have already gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, Geisman said.
Vaccination mandates in universities in Louisiana can be easily worked around. Students don’t have to be vaccinated if they provide a medical exemption from a physician or “a written dissent from the student or his parent or guardian,” according to Louisiana state law.
LSU’s Baton Rouge campus appears to have the highest vaccination rate of any public undergraduate program in the state.
As of last week, 81 percent of LSU’s 34,000 students got at least one dose of the vaccine. LSU required students in Baton Rouge to submit proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or fill out an exemption waiver by Sept. 10. Only 27 students were unenrolled for failing to turn in any vaccination information.
LSU Alexandria (26 percent) reported the lowest vaccination rate among the university’s campuses, followed by LSU Eunice (46 percent), LSU Shreveport (58 percent) and the LSU Health Science Center in New Orleans (87 percent), LSU President William Tate said to the Board of Regents Tuesday.
Southern University President Ray Belton didn’t provide their campuses’ vaccination rates, but communications director Janene Tate said over email that the deadline for students to submit vaccination information is mid-October, and the university will have more information on vaccination rates at that time.
At Tulane University, which was one of four private universities in New Orleans that mandated the vaccine before the fall semester began, over 95 percent of their students are fully vaccinated. Loyola University New Orleans, Xavier University and Dillard University — the other three universities — didn’t respond to questions about their vaccination rates.