UT Board of Trustees meeting sparks discussion about vaccine requirements
JACKSON, Tenn. — A special called University of Tennessee Board of Trustees meeting sparked discussion about a resolution that would give universities the authority to require students to get a COVID-19 vaccine for the Fall 2021 semester.
This would apply to students attending classes or living on campuses.
“If a COVID-19 vaccine is approved by the FDA and is found by the CDC and or the Tennessee Department of Health to be safe and effective,” said Ryan Stinnett, general counsel for University of Tennessee.
Right now, the system requires proof of vaccination for measles, mumps, and rubella, as well as chicken pox, meningitis, and hepatitis B.
This year, they authorized an emergency requirement for flu shots on all University of Tennessee system campuses — the first time they’ve ever done so.
“We have implemented it under an emergency rule. The emergency rule would stay in place until February,” said UT Board of Trustees Secretary and Special Counsel, Cindy Moore.
That requirement meant they could start thinking about an eventual COVID-19 vaccine, though some board members raised concerns about the idea.
“What are we seeing other institutions do? I just worry that there is not enough information today to make that decision,” said UT Board of Trustees member Bill Rhodes.
“We want to be nimble so that we could potentially require it at that point,” Stinnett said. “So what we’re doing is putting that authority in place now.”
The board eventually voted to approve the resolution, meaning when a COVID-19 vaccine is ready and available, schools in the University of Tennessee system will have the ability to require it.
They also allowed some “wiggle room” for president Randy Boyd, when it came to assessing both the flu and COVID requirements.
“We have the option at anytime to go back and reverse the policy,” Boyd said. “Maybe in the June meeting, we can take an assessment of where we are at with COVID, and whether or not we want to implement a flu vaccine for the fall of 2021.”
The system will still allow certain exemptions, including students who are enrolled exclusively online, students who have a medical contraindication, or students who have a religious objection.