Open letter urging vaccine mandate at UK gains over 1,000 signatures


As of Wednesday at 11 p.m., 1,400 signatures have been affixed to an open letter petitioning University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto and Acting Provost Robert S. DiPaola to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for UK students, faculty and staff.

According to the signatory stats provided at the bottom of the letter, updated at 5 p.m. Wednesday, 424 of the signatures are from students, 221 are from staff and 578 are from faculty.

Dr. Molly J. Blasing, a university senator for the College of Arts and Sciences, sent an email to others in the senate encouraging them to sign the letter. 

In an email, Blasing told the Kernel that the letter was written by university senators in conjunction with “UK experts on public health and immunology.”

Although Blasing said the letter will remain open for signatures indefinitely, it will be sent to university officials during the week of Sept. 6.

Because of UK’s hesitation to make COVID vaccinations mandatory, “UK has fallen behind our peer institutions and even institutions that have traditionally looked to us for leadership,” she said.

Blasing told the Kernel that while it is encouraging to be back in person this semester, mandatory vaccinations are the most effective way to protect the safety of UK students and employees.

“Our open letter effort to urge UK to adopt a vaccine mandate is all about making sure that we can continue to fulfill our education mission without putting our people at increased risk of contracting or spreading severe COVID,” she said.

Earlier version

A letter addressed to University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto and Acting Provost Robert S. DiPaola urging a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students, staff and faculty has received over 1,000 signatures as of 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Among those signatures is over 600 names listed as faculty or staff.

The letter says, “a vaccine mandate is the single most powerful tool we have available at this time to achieve our goal of providing a robust, in-person experience for our students.”

The letter addresses the “potential political risks” UK could face from mandating the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The risks to the institution of not moving to a vaccine mandate as well as the benefits for the health and safety of all in the UK community demonstrably outweigh the political risks,” the letter says.

An email sent Wednesday from College of Arts and Sciences Senator Dr. Molly Blasing urged university senators to distribute the letter among their respective colleges.

“We have strong representation in some colleges, but we are especially eager to spread the word in Colleges with less representation at this time: Communications, Dentistry, Medicine, Law, Public Health, Pharmacy, and Nursing,” Blasing’s email read.

According to UK’s COVID-19 dashboard, 74.9 percent of returning students, faculty and staff are vaccinated. Capilouto told the Kernel on Aug. 26 that his goal was to reach at least 80 percent vaccinated campus-wide, although he did not express his support for a vaccine mandate.

“Certainly you’d want to have everyone vaccinated,” Capilouto said. “We are enjoying great progress, giving people the opportunity to make a decision to get this vaccine.” 

Capilouto told the Kernel he was “deeply confident in Kentuckians doing the right thing for themselves and one another.”

The Kernel has reached out to authors of the letter for comment and will update this story with responses.