Ducey, lawmakers stop university COVID-19 vaccine mandate in Arizona

Arizona State University vaccine requirements triggered political backlash.
Doug Ducey

Gov. Doug Ducey has put a stop to Arizona State University‘s plans to require students to have COVID-19 vaccines to attend campus this fall or face rigorous safeguards.

Dr. Joanne Vogel, ASU’s vice president of student services, emailed students outlining their COVID-19 protocols for the fall 2021 semester. While they don’t require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19, those who don’t will be required to follow a rigorous set of safeguards such as daily health checks, twice-weekly COVID-19 tests and required face coverings in all indoor and outdoor spaces on ASU grounds.

“COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States and in other countries are highly effective at preventing COVID-19 infection and reducing the spread of the virus,” Vogel wrote. “The vaccine is the greatest tool available to mitigate COVID-19 and its negative health outcomes, including death, and we believe it is imperative for the health and well-being of our community for all to be vaccinated.”

Lawmakers objected to the announcement, saying they go too far and amount to virtue signaling.

“I’m as big an [Arizona State University] fan as anyone, but this policy makes zero sense and should be reversed,” Sen. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, tweeted.

Ducey announced he soon would put a stop to the university’s plan himself.

“This is bad policy, with no basis in public health,” Ducey said Monday evening. “The vaccine works. But the vaccine is a choice. This policy is social engineering at its worst.”

Ducey signed an executive order Tuesday morning that would keep any public university from requiring proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or mandatory mask usage for students.

“Public education is a public right, and taxpayers are paying for it," he said. "We need to make our public universities available for students to return to learning. They have already missed out on too much learning. From K-12 to higher education, Arizona is supporting in-person learning.”

Ducey said he would work with lawmakers to codify his order.

Democrats reacted to Ducey’s announcement, saying ASU was respecting the freedom of prospective students to refuse the vaccine while taking steps to safeguard against an outbreak on campus.

“Gov. Ducey was at the helm of the sheer loss of life and lacks both the moral authority [and] legitimacy to lecture institutions about appropriate COVID safety protocols,” tweeted Rep. Athena Salman, D-Tempe.

Students at ASU and many other public universities historically have been required to present proof of vaccination against other diseases, such as smallpox and measles.