Vanderbilt removes mandatory vaccination and testing requirements, adds monkeypox guidelines

The update directs students with Monkeypox symptoms to the Student Health Center.


Anjali Chanda

An “Anchor Down, Step Up” sign in Rand Hall, as photographed on Feb. 5, 2021 (Hustler Multimedia/Anjali Chanda).

Ilana Drake, Staff Writer

In the week before the Fall 2022 semester, Vanderbilt released health and safety guidelines that include changes to its COVID-19 protocol and introduction procedures for monkeypox.

Notably, the university removed all asymptomatic testing mandates even for unvaccinated and partially vaccinated individuals—including its former sentinel testing program. It also removed its vaccination requirement.

The university additionally acknowledged the recent surge in monkeypox cases in Davidson County in an Aug. 17 email. If a student does not feel well or has monkeypox symptoms, the university requests that they contact the Student Health Center.  

In addition to the removal of mandated testing and vaccinations, there will also be no size limits for gatherings, and indoor spaces can reach maximum capacity. Despite the lack of a vaccine mandate, community members can still share proof of vaccination and boosters by uploading documentation to a submission form

For Fall 2022, we will continue to be attentive and realistic in our COVID-19 approach, focusing on shared responsibility, respect, and support for fellow community members,” the university statement reads. “We will maintain a flexible and nimble public health coordination function ready to adapt to current and future health and wellness needs.”

If a student or community member tests positive for COVID-19, they are asked to complete a webform to help the Command Center contact students and close contacts about isolation protocol. Similar to the 2021-22 school year, students who are awaiting test results or who have tested positive will remain in quarantine. This year, campus residents will not relocate to another living space while awaiting results.

This year, Vanderbilt stated that it has allocated “limited isolation space” for immunocompromised roommates of students who test positive for COVID-19. Students who identify as immunosuppressed and who do not have their own residential space should record their information with Student Access and ask for an accommodation in the event of their roommate(s) testing positive. These accommodations must be confirmed before a student’s roommate is diagnosed with COVID-19. Students awaiting monkeypox results will similarly isolate in either isolation housing provided by the university if they reside on-campus or in their off-campus residences.

According to a university representative, four of the Mayfield Lodges, which house ten people each, will be utilized as quarantine/isolation housing. Sophomore Maya Maciel-Seidman said she feels nervous about Blakemore House, which was previously designated as a quarantine location for 2021-22, being unavailable for quarantine this year. 

“I think it will spread quickly in dorms since students will be self-isolating in their residences,” Maciel-Seidman said. “Students who test positive will be a risk not only to their roommates but to the rest of those living in their dorms.” 

When an individual tests positive, they will quarantine for five days after their test or from the time their symptoms began, depending on which occurred first. After that time, if the individual feels better or is asymptomatic, they can return to their daily campus activities but will need to monitor their symptoms and wear a mask for five days following their isolation. Similar to the 2021-2022 school year, students are responsible for contacting their professors about their situation and getting caught up on work. 

Meaghan Kilner, a junior and blood cancer survivor, said she was frustrated with the less stringent protocol this year. 

“This would be more tolerable if Vanderbilt was putting in other measures to protect medically vulnerable students,” Kilner said. “But when I reached out to Student Access Services, they told me that my only options were to take a reduced course load or a medical leave of absence; this is not allowing for equal access to education for me and other medically vulnerable students.”  

The statement directs students with COVID-19 symptoms to the Public Health Central Command Center, which works with anyone who has tested positive and close contacts of that person.