VCOM issues response to lawsuit from Attorney General Landry

Local News

MONROE, La. (KTVE/KARD) — On Wednesday August 4, Attorney General Jeff Landry announced he is suing Edward VIA College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM).

According to the court documents, the medical school asked that all students get vaccinated to continue their education in the VCOM program. However, AG Landry says this is not legal because no one is legally able to require the COVID-19 vaccine.

This evening the school’s President and Provost Dixie Tooke-Rawlins has issued the following response:

“VCOM received a copy of the restraining orders, preliminary injunction and permanent injunctions submitted by an attorney for the students supported by the Attorney General’s office. The injunction was filed through the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana. We are responding to this today. Many of the allegations that have been listed in the order are simply untrue. More importantly, there is no reason for this to have been filed.

VCOM instituted a mandatory vaccination which includes an avenue in which the student may file for an exemption. The stories being shared regarding the treatment of the students are simply not true. While only three students are requesting exemption from the vaccine (out of more than 300 in the current two classes), VCOM has not threatened to punish any student for not having the vaccination. As of Monday, with the new mask mandate provided by the State of Louisiana and the recommendations of the CDC, all students are required to wear masks in the classroom. Students are required to wear a mask for the safety of all. VCOM has not denied any request for exemptions that the students have submitted, and in fact, the first meeting of the COVID-19 Committee will be Friday, August 6, 2021.

The claim of Landry’s lawsuit that VCOM told the three students it would deny any request for vaccination exemption and threatened to punish the students for their refusal is simply not the truth. VCOM is disappointed that anyone, whether it be the students or their attorney, would spread a rumor like this for personal benefit.

VCOM has responded to the Attorney General’s letters twice by making minor amendments to our policy, but vaccination remains a requirement. This requirement is important as our students become medical providers in their first year. The VCOM medical students will work at our community hospitals and rural hospitals in the surrounding area. Physicians and VCOM students, as medical providers, also have no right to be a vector in spreading the virus or infecting the unknowing patients they will care for, who would naturally believe the students would be vaccinated.

Even with this, the College allows for exemptions and will be hearing the students requests for an exemption this week on Friday, August 6, 2021. The College has issued no punitive measures for these students, and what has been written by the Attorney General’s office regarding such threats is simply not the truth.

We are not sure who is responsible for the statements being made, but VCOM has not been punitive to the students, has not ‘blackballed’ any student or made any such threats. VCOM has explained to students that there may be a need to defer a portion of the clinical education where patient care occurs to later in the year after the COVID-19 vaccine is no longer under Emergency Use Authorization and is fully approved. The decision date provided to the students in July was simply if they wished to receive all their tuition back and defer their medical education for a year or if they wished to continue the program knowing they would have to be reviewed for exemption and/or an altered program.

VCOM is simply trying to protect the safety of all our students and employees and for the patients whom the students will be providing care. In the past few days, hospitals across the state have announced that they are now requiring the vaccination, as well. We are seeing a rise in the number of cases in Louisiana that will likely lead to a crisis again. Last week we were down to 80 ICU beds for an entire region. The hospitals have included medical students as providers who are required to be vaccinated, as well. Can anyone imagine how they would feel if their family member was hospitalized for another issue and contracted a COVID-19 infection from a student they thought would be vaccinated? What if the patient died? Who is liable — the Attorney General’s office?

We have enough evidence-based data nationally on the vaccine outcomes that over 60 healthcare organizations have come out in support that all medical providers should be vaccinated. The organizations making these recommendations include the American Medical Association, the American Osteopathic Association, the American Association of Medical Colleges, the American Association of Osteopathic Medical Colleges, and several national nursing, pharmacy and dentistry organizations. Yesterday, the Federation of State Medical Licensing Boards (FSMB) issued a statement that physicians can be sanctioned for making false statements or providing misinformation about the vaccine’s safety.

It is simply time for the vaccine to no longer be used as a political issue but to be one recognized as a measure needed for public health and safety.

VCOM’s requirement does not force any student to be vaccinated. We have offered and will continue to offer exemptions and alternate plans for students until the vaccine is off Emergency Use Authorization.

Also, it is important to note that some of the information reported asserts we are a public institution. VCOM is a private College that pays the University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM) for certain services for our students, which financially benefits the University and the state. The economic impact of VCOM over the past 18 months has exceeded 80 million dollars. VCOM does not receive any funds from the state and the status as determined by the state is that of a foreign institution (meaning out of state) licensed to operate within the state. We do, however seek to abide by the laws of the state and have attempted to follow those laws in every manner.

Again, VCOM has not punished any student for not being vaccinated, and the Committee has not even met yet to determine the exemptions. VCOM is trying to educate all our students, faculty and staff regarding the vaccine. We have a pathway for exemption for students who have medical, religious or other types of dissent.

We are sad for the three students that their lawyers and the Attorney General’s office have chosen a pathway that includes the media and is making them feel estranged from their classmates and the College. We plan to treat each of the students fairly in the Committee.”

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