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Students walk past a COVID-19 Testing Center flag while heading into the quad as LSU has its first day of classes to begin the fall semester Monday August 23, 2021, in Baton Rouge, La.

LSU students will have until Oct. 15 to show proof of vaccination or present their declarations for formally opting out. University of New Orleans and University of Louisiana at Lafayette students registering in October will have to present their paperwork.

And beginning Oct 1st, students wanting to continue in community colleges and vo-tech schools also will have to show proof of COVID vaccination or document their refusal and begin regular testing.

But what happens to the 700,000 or so kindergarten through 12th grade students in public schools remains up in the air.

Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley had no comment Tuesday. The Education department is waiting until the Louisiana Department of Health officially adds COVID vaccinations to its list of immunizations required of students wanting to attend class.

But that could take some time and will require a legislative hearing, according to the governor’s office.

About 213,000 students are enrolled in Louisiana public higher education institutions. Many private schools, including Tulane University, already have made vaccination a condition for enrollment.

LSU System President William F. Tate IV wrote students and faculty Tuesday that students who choose to go unvaccinated will have to regularly test for COVID infection. The university also announced Tuesday that those attending LSU football games “will require either proof of vaccination or a recent COVID test to enter Tiger Stadium.”

“As an epidemiologist, I know that vaccination is the way out of this pandemic, and I’m grateful to everyone who has already been vaccinated for helping us move in that direction. Those who have not yet been vaccinated can do so at one of several locations on campus,” Tate wrote.

Unvaccinated LSU students will need to receive their first of two shots by Sept. 10 to meet the deadline. Students have until Sept. 10 to declare which course they'll follow, by either submitting proof of their first vaccine shot by then, or formally opting out via the student health system website.

The nine four-year universities in the University of Louisiana System, including UNO and ULL, added the COVID-19 vaccine to their required immunization schedules Monday.

“Students registering for classes that start in October will have to provide proof of vaccination or opt into an exemption. Students who are currently enrolled are encouraged to comply as soon as possible or they will not be able to register for subsequent terms,” Cami Geisman, the UL System’s vice president for external affairs, said Tuesday, spelling out the comments UL System President Jim Henderson made Monday.

LCTCS President Monte Sullivan said the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, which he heads, will honor the exemptions filed by students not wishing to be vaccinated. “There is no such thing as a mandate,” he added.

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Nevertheless, students wanting to enroll on one of 60 or so LCTCS campuses statewide will have to submit documentation when registration begins around Oct. 1, depending on the school. Those who chose to remain unvaccinated will be regularly tested, though the mechanics of that procedure are still being worked out.

“We’ll be working with our fall-enrolled students so that they’re aware that they will need the paperwork to continue,” Sullivan said Tuesday.

Sullivan noted that some of the schools’ partners – private companies and healthcare affiliates, where some LCTCS students intern – are requiring vaccinations.

The federal Food & Drug Administration gave full approval Monday of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people 16 years of age and older. The vaccines had been administered under an emergency approval. The Moderna vaccine is expected to receive full approval in the coming days. Johnson & Johnson is expected to soon file for full FDA approval.

While college and university leaders quickly spelled out plans, lots of questions surround the potential impact for K-12 students.

The stance of the state Department of Education is that the next step for mandating the vaccine is up to the Louisiana Department of Health, including details of exactly how that will work in 69 school districts.

Sandy Holloway, president of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, referred a reporter to a state law that gives the Louisiana Department of Health the authority to add mandated vaccines to the list, which is expected soon.

That law already requires students to show proof they have been vaccinated for measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, and other diseases. It also spells out how parents and guardians can get a written statement from a doctor or sign a written “dissent” to earn a vaccine exemption.

Gov. John Bel Edwards has directed the health department to begin the rule-making process to have COVID vaccinations added to the schedule as a condition of enrollment in public schools. The addition will be submitted for legislative review and public comment in the near future, Shauna Sanford, the governor’s communications director, said Tuesday.

Mike Faulk, executive director of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents, said Tuesday superintendents want to know what their options are.

“It is just like the mask,” Faulk said. “They are getting pushback on the masks. The thing is if parents don’t get vaccinated, they are sure not going to let their kids get vaccinated.”

Louisiana’s rate of fully vaccinated adults is one of the lowest in the nations, and the state is a national leader for new cases of what is mostly the delta variant of the coronavirus.

Faulk, former superintendent of public schools in Central, said around 40% of school staff earlier took advantage of offers to get the vaccine.


Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.