Vanderbilt requires COVID-19 vaccination cooperation, currently does not require vaccination for enrollment

The completion of the Return to Campus Acknowledgment is a requirement for all undergraduate students. The vaccine allows for accommodations or exemptions on religious beliefs, disabilities and medical conditions.

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Claire Barnett

Snowy weather visits Vanderbilt on Tuesday, January 16, 2018. (Hustler Multimedia/Claire Barnett)

Immanual John Milton, Editor in Chief

The university included a section regarding COVID-19 vaccination cooperation in the Spring Return to Campus Acknowledgement, which outlines Vanderbilt’s public health protocols and community guidelines.

The COVID-19 vaccine cooperation section of the Acknowledgment states: “I agree to receive a vaccination against COVID-19 if and when Vanderbilt so requires. I understand that reasonable accommodations or exemptions from this requirement may be available based on religious beliefs, a disability, or a medical condition.”

Per a Dec. 15, 2020 email from the Office of the University Registrar, all undergraduate students, including on campus and remote, are required to complete the Acknowledgment by Jan. 18. Students who do not complete the module by the deadline will have their Spring 2021 registration canceled. 

The vaccine is currently not required by the university, per a Jan. 7 Vanderbilt statement to The Hustler. 

“The COVID-19 vaccine is currently not required by the state and is not otherwise required for enrollment. Should the state [of Tennessee] or the university require a COVID-19 vaccine for enrollment, the vaccine will need to be readily available and students will be notified of how to access the exemption process,” the statement read.

The university statement also said that the reason for the inclusion of the COVID-19 vaccine cooperation section was to account for the possibility that the vaccine could become “widely available” during the spring semester, and that the students could be required either by Vanderbilt or Tennessee to obtain the vaccine, or an exemption, to enroll.

Vanderbilt’s Spring Return to Campus Acknowledgement had a COVID-19 cooperation section. Screenshot taken Dec. 21, 2020 of Acknowledgement. (Immanual John Milton)

Exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine will be allowed through an established process, based on religious beliefs, a disability, or a medical condition, per the university statement.

The current exemption procedure for immunizations requires students to submit a waiver to request an exemption, a three to four week process. This procedure also requires students to have “documented personal/religious reasons or medical reasons.” The waiver must be approved before the student will be permitted to register for classes, according to Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC)’s Student Health Compliance Frequently Asked Questions page.

Vanderbilt said in its statement that students who receive the vaccination during the spring semester will still be required to participate in the testing program and follow all campus protocol. However, the university also stated they would reevaluate this policy if public health information suggested that vaccinated individuals did not require testing. 

The university has not yet released any specifics on Vanderbilt’s vaccine distribution and prioritization.

Vanderbilt is not currently eligible to be a distribution site for the vaccine because they are not a health care organization, Chancellor Daniel Diermeier said in a Jan. 7 message to the community.

Diermeier confirmed that VUMC has been administering COVID-19 vaccinations to health care employees and select School of Medicine and School of Nursing students. The chancellor also said that VUMC would “soon” begin vaccinations for its patients who are 75 years or older. 

“As 2021 progresses, we will continue to see the rollout of [vaccines]. This is an unprecedented achievement in the history of medicine, and it is one in which scientists and clinicians at Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center played leading roles,” Diermeier said.