With our vaccine task force's recently announced goal to help the University of Maine System become Maine's most vaccinated workforce, I am writing today to let you know that two hours of paid administrative leave will be available for all UMS faculty and staff to get their first dose of the vaccine.
For more than a year now we have watched and responded proactively to every development in the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout, we’ve had two mutually reinforcing goals: meeting our teaching, research, and public service commitments to our students and state, and protecting the public health and safety of our university and Maine communities. Now, with COVID vaccines more widely available, with a quarter of Maine adults having gotten at least a first dose of vaccine, and with a clear state vaccination eligibility expansion plan in place, we can start doing our part to end the pandemic by getting vaccinated to help us return to normal.
I was fortunate to get my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine last week. Doing so was simple and pain-free. I urge every member of our faculty and staff to join me in doing the same. As soon as it's your turn, please get vaccinated.
Some have already been vaccinated, including those working directly on COVID-19 response. We are incredibly proud of how our nursing students have volunteered to help with the vaccination campaign and know that vaccination is the safe, effective, and smart thing do. Others will be soon be eligible through the Governor's just-announced expansion for child care workers and K-12 staff. Approximately 25 percent of our 4,635 employees are 60 or older and also are now eligible to be vaccinated. If all goes according to plan, almost three-quarters of our faculty and staff will be eligible by the end of the semester.
We have an opportunity for UMS to become Maine’s most vaccinated workforce through voluntary participation. To make that happen, I am urging everyone who can to get vaccinated. I remain committed to providing information, encouragement, and assistance to our faculty and staff for this purpose, just as we have from the very first employee commitment we made in the early days of the pandemic.
As with all education, it starts with knowledge. Please visit this list of Maine COVID-19 vaccination sites if you are 60 or above to learn where and how you can make an appointment. And to find out if you may be eligible for the vaccine for some other reason, check Maine's general COVID vaccine website. Do it now and commit to having your appointment scheduled as soon as possible.
If you are under 60, you can count on hearing from me again with information and encouragement when eligibility expands.
To be clear, UMS is not requiring vaccinations because the COVID-19 vaccines have Emergency Use Authorization status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Still, I strongly encourage everyone who can get vaccinated to do so.
All UMS managers will help make vaccination a workplace priority and provide faculty and staff with the flexibility they need to get vaccinated when it is their turn. I have authorized two hours of paid administrative leave for anyone to use to get their first vaccination.
UMS faculty and staff who take advantage of this time should use “COVID Leave” as the reporting code when time is taken to receive a vaccination.
It’s been a year of unexpected challenge and sacrifice, but it’s also been a year of resilience, service, and student success that has exceeded our expectations. And now, as the University of Maine System remains committed to public health and safety even with the pandemic’s end in sight, we’ll continue our testing and public health practices, and commit to supporting access to the vaccine to make sure normalcy is restored as soon as possible.
Thank you, and my best wishes for the health and safety of you and your family.