Temple approves 73 percent of COVID-19 vaccine exemption requests

The university has either denied or requested more information about the remaining 27 percent of requests.

Nearly three-quarters of the 1,351 requests received for exemptions to its COVID-19 vaccine mandate as of Sept. 29 have been approved by Temple University. | ALLIE IPPOLITO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University has approved nearly three-quarters of the 1,351 requests received for exemptions to its COVID-19 vaccine mandate as of Sept. 29, wrote Mark Denys, director of Student Health Services, in an email to The Temple News.

Of the total requests received, about 43 percent were approved for religious reasons, 26 percent were approved for students not attending in-person classes and four percent were approved for medical reasons, Denys wrote.  

Temple denied about nine percent of the total exemption requests and requested more information about the remaining 18 percent, Denys added.

Students and faculty must submit a written request if they wish to be exempted from the vaccine mandate for medical or religious reasons. 

Each request is considered by a team of four to 10 faculty members, including physicians from Student Health Services and representatives from Temple Human Resources, the Division of Student Affairs and the Office of Admissions, said Stephen Orbanek, a spokesperson for the university.

The City of Philadelphia requires individuals seeking medical exemptions to provide documentation from a licensed health care provider to support their request, wrote Sharon Boyle, associate vice president for human resources, in an email to The Temple News.

The university also follows city protocols when granting religious exemptions, requiring applicants to certify and sign which of their “sincerely held” religious beliefs prevent them from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, Boyle wrote. 

“If it’s something like a one sentence, ‘It goes against my religion,’ we need more than that,” Orbanek said. “Basically, it has to make a compelling and accurate argument.” 

Exemption requests are rejected if they do not meet these requirements, Orbanek said. Moral or philosophical reasoning, like a flat refusal to receive the vaccine, are also not accepted, he added.

If a religious request is rejected, it is sent back to the student or employee for further input, Orbanek said. The exemption review team will work with students and staff if they are willing to expand on their reasoning, but will not allow an unlimited number of revisions. 

Unvaccinated students who have been granted a vaccine exemption must get tested for COVID-19 twice a week, The Temple News reported.

Unexempted students will lose access to university buildings, including residence halls, if they do not comply with the university’s testing requirements or provide proof of vaccination by the Oct. 15 deadline, Orbanek said.

The university may also disenroll students who do not follow the university’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate or testing requirements, Orbanek said. 

On Sept. 21, Temple extended its vaccine exemption request deadline past the previous Sept. 17 cutoff to avoid unnecessarily disenrolling students, The Temple News reported

Approximately 86 percent of Temple students and nearly 90 percent of employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Sept. 30, according to the university’s vaccine and case dashboard

Temple is requiring all students, faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 15 in accordance with the City of Philadelphia’s vaccine mandate for local universities, The Temple News reported

“Our desire is that everyone who can be vaccinated should be vaccinated, so unless you have a serious medical or religious exemption, you should be vaccinated,” Orbanek said.

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