Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. photo by Lisa Ferdinando. U.S. Secretary of Defense, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. photo by Lisa Ferdinando. U.S. Secretary of Defense, (CC BY 2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

After attempting more than once to prevent employers from mandating COVID-19 vaccinations, a pair of Wisconsin Republicans are beginning an attempt to prohibit vaccine mandates on public university and college campuses.

Two legislators, Sen. Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond) and Rep. Gae Magnafici (R-Dresser), have begun looking for cosponsors on their bill that would prohibit UW System campuses and Wisconsin technical colleges from mandating vaccinations or COVID-19 tests, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.

As university administrators have worked to prevent COVID-19 infections during the 2020-21 school year, mandated testing regimes have been an important tool and are expected to still be necessary next fall as students return without 100% vaccination rates.

“It raises concern as to the possibility that this UW-System policy invades these students’ medical information privacy,” the lawmakers wrote in an email to colleagues. “This bill returns vaccination and testing decisions back to the individuals and maintains their medical information privacy.”

UW-Madison administered more than 1,000 vaccines to students and faculty May 2-8, according to a university dashboard. UW System President Tommy Thompson has said his goal is to have 90% of students vaccinated before summer break.

Last month, Robert Atwell, a member of the UW System Board of Regents said in a meeting that he did not believe students should be compelled to get the vaccine. He also made points about vaccine risk that are contrary to the advice and recommendations of public health experts.

Atwell, in addition to serving on the Board of Regents, is the CEO of Nicolet National Bank and is a regular donor to Republican political candidates.

Some public and many private universities across the country have already decided to mandate vaccines. Lawrence University, a private school in Appleton, has announced a vaccine requirement. The state’s largest private university, Marquette, has not yet announced its plans.

Wisconsin’s public universities recommend, but do not require, certain immunizations for incoming students. The state requires a full course of immunizations for students in K-12 schools. State law does allow students to obtain a vaccine waiver for medical, religious or personal reasons.

In February, a Republican attempt to prevent vaccine mandates was vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers. Stafsholt told WPR he expects this bill, if passed, would be vetoed as well.

Reprinted with permission of Wisconsin Examiner.

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