7% Of U Students Have Filed for a COVID-19 Vaccine Exemption During Fall Semester


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By Marisa Angulo, Investigative Writer


University of Utah students have increasingly become fully vaccinated against COVID-19, some due to the risk of a registration hold being placed on their student account to prevent spring registration. With the increase of vaccinated students, there are also students filing for vaccination exemptions. 

Utah House Bill 233 prohibits any higher education institution from enforcing a vaccine requirement without a form of exemption for its students. This applies to U students looking to file for an exemption for medical or religious reasons.

According to the U’s COVID Central website, 82% of the students enrolled for fall semester are fully vaccinated. The rest of the student body includes 7% that are still in the process of completing their vaccinations, 7% who filed for an exemption and 4% whose status is unknown. This indicates that the majority of the students on campus are vaccinated, but there is a significant portion of our campus submitting exemptions. Specifically, out of the 34,424 enrolled in the fall 2021 semester, 2,409 have filed exemptions.

Kerry Hill, the manager of the U’s Student Health Insurance and Immunization Program was asked if there has been an increase in exemptions. “We have not had an increase [in] the number of exemptions since registration,” Hill said. When asked in particular about the average number of exemption requests received by her department, Hill said, “about 15 to 20 a day.” 

With a small but steady number of vaccine exemptions, the overall student population concerns of a major outbreak on campus has seemed to decrease.

Faith Chand, a junior at the U majoring in Atmospheric Science and Geoscience, said she got vaccinated because it “just felt like it was the right choice to make.” With the statistics from the U’s COVID Central website, such as the vaccination rates of students, Chand said that she feels “very safe attending campus with those numbers. I feel like it’s still everybody’s choice, and that I shouldn’t feel like I need everybody to be vaccinated. It’s still just their choice. Yeah, if they are exempted, then they’re exempt. That’s fine.” 

There are many reasons that students may choose to file for an exemption; this includes religious and medical reasoning. In order to file an exemption online, students must complete a typed statement expressing their reasons for not getting the vaccine. Getting a medical exemption is a slightly different process, because instead of providing a statement, you have to provide medical documentation that explains why you are unable to receive the vaccine.

I feel like it varies on a person to person basis,” said Elin Berto, a sophomore at the U. “Some people just do it, because they don’t feel like it, but some people actually have legitimate reasons. So for people with actual reasons, I completely respect that but for people that are utilizing it as a way to get out are kind of annoying,” said Elin Berto, a sophomore at the U.

Colleges such as the University of Vermont have seen success with vaccine mandates. As of September 2021, 100% of their students have complied with their vaccine mandate in coordination with the return to campus for the fall semester. Even with their high rates of compliance, they are still requiring masks to be worn indoors on campus.

“I definitely feel safe enough to not wear a mask. But I do want to take precautions regardless,” said Hannah Pucheu, a sophomore at the U. In regards to the 7% of students who received an exemption she said, “I feel fine. Even though it probably affects me in some way, I feel okay because it’s such a low percentage.”

According to the Salt Lake County Health Department, from Nov. 1-23, there were 12,083 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Salt Lake County. During that period there were also 44 deaths.

This data confirms that the pandemic has not particularly slowed down, but the efforts made by students are not going unnoticed. As of Nov. 23, the U’s student body has only accounted for 3,578 COVID-19 cases out of Salt Lake County’s 100,521 total of confirmed positive cases in 2021.


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