Students wary about vaccine exemption deadline extension

Students express concern about Temple University’s decision to extend the deadline for religious and medical exemptions for the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Students sign in at Mitten Hall to get tested for COVID-19 on Sept. 3. | ISAAC SCHEIN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

After learning about Temple University’s decision to extend the deadline for unvaccinated students to request an exemption from the university’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, Devin Trinh was unimpressed. 

“They’re harming Temple’s campus,” said Trinh, a freshman computer science major. “If they’re not vaccinated, there’s a good chance that COVID, the delta variant, could mutate into something worse.”

Initially, all students and employees were required to submit requests for medical or religious exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccine mandate by Sept. 17, The Temple News reported. However, the university’s decision to indefinitely extend the vaccine exemption request deadline last month has left many students frustrated and uncomfortable, viewing Temple’s decision as a health risk.

Students who don’t submit their vaccination records on time should be barred from campus, Trinh said. 

“I feel like at this point, the ones who wanted that religious exemption had got the exemption, and I don’t understand why they wanted to extend the deadline,” Trinh said.

As of Sept. 29, Temple has granted about 73 percent of the more than 1,300 exemption requests it has received from students and faculty, wrote Mark Denys, senior director of Student Health Services, in an email to The Temple News. 

Students who do not submit proof of vaccination by the Oct. 15 deadline will lose access to university buildings and face potential disenrollment, The Temple News reported

Rishi Shankar does not think the university should disenroll people who do not get vaccinated in time, even though he is annoyed with the extension, he said. Preventive measures should be taken to ensure the safety of other students and faculty, he added.

“I don’t want to get rid of the education and services for them at Temple,” said Shankar, a junior computer science major. “So I’d probably say something along the lines of testing them weekly to make sure they don’t have it and obviously keeping up with the masks and trying to maintain social distance.”

Unvaccinated students who receive an exemption still must wear a mask, socially distance and get tested for COVID-19 twice a week, The Temple News reported

Shankar was confused about why the university chose to extend the exemption request deadline, he said. He acknowledged there were people who couldn’t get the vaccine in the allotted time, but opposes Temple’s decision to push the date back further, he said. 

“We’ve known what we needed to do for a long time, it would have made more sense for  [Temple] to start with the new [vaccine] mandates,” Shankar said.

As of Oct. 4, approximately 86 percent of Temple students and 90 percent of employees are fully vaccinated, according to the university’s vaccine and case dashboard

Nathan Cox, a junior film and media arts major, struggled learning virtually, and was excited they’d be able to learn in person this year, they said. However, they are concerned Temple’s decision to extend the exemption request deadline could cause a rise in cases, which could lead to classes being moved back online. 

As of Oct. 3, there are 29 active COVID-19 cases among students and faculty, according to Temple’s COVID-19 cases and vaccine dashboard.

The decision feels like a bad omen, Cox said.

“I think that this could lead to us going online again, and I don’t want that to happen,” Cox said. “Allowing this could cause more cases to pop up. I hope Temple knows what they’re doing.” 

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