Temple extended vaccine deadline despite high compliance rate

Over 400 students and employees in total are not in compliance with the university’s COVID-19 mandate.

One day after the deadline to receive the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, over 400 students and 86 employees lost access to campus buildings due to their failure to comply with the university's vaccine mandate. | AMBER RITSON / FILE

More than 400 students and 86 employees lost access to campus buildings yesterday because they failed to comply with Temple University’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, just one week after the university gave students an additional month to get vaccinated, said Stephen Orbanek, a university spokesperson.

Following city guidelines, Temple is giving students and employees until Oct. 15 to receive their first shot of a two-dose vaccine series and until Nov. 15 to complete their vaccine series, one month longer than the original deadlines announced in August, The Temple News reported.

The City of Philadelphia did not require Temple to extend its vaccine mandate compliance deadline. Temple chose to do so as a reminder for students to upload their vaccination card to the Student Health Portal, Orbanek said.

“It allows more time for more people to get vaccinated if they want to do that or if they haven’t had time,” Orbanek said. You know, which has always been our goal since the start.”

However, the university did not feel it needed to provide extra time for students and faculty to receive the vaccine, wrote Mark Denys, senior director of Student Health Services, in an email to The Temple News. 

As of Oct. 15, about 95 percent of Temple’s population — including nearly 32,000 students — is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the university’s vaccine and case dashboard. An additional 1.4 percent are partially vaccinated as of Oct. 16, Orbanek said.

Only four percent have an approved religious, medical or remote-only exemption to the vaccine mandate as of Oct. 12, Orbanek said.

Students who have not received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 15 will be given an additional 10 days to receive their shot or an exemption from the mandate, Orbanek wrote in an email to The Temple News. Students who ignored the extended deadline will be permitted to continue their remote classes, but will be marked as “withdrawn” from their in-person courses. They will also lose access to university WiFi and buildings. 

Temple does not plan to expel any non-compliant students, Orbanek said.

Temple will give employees a period of unpaid time if they are not partially vaccinated or exempt by Oct. 15, wrote Sharon Boyle, associate vice president of Human Resources, in an email to The Temple News. 

During this time, the affected employees will be prohibited from coming to campus, but can work remotely if they have a remote-only waiver. If they are still not partially vaccinated or exempted after the period of unpaid time, they will be considered to have voluntarily resigned, she added. 

The majority of the people who did not submit the appropriate proof of vaccination were remote-only students who never uploaded their vaccine cards, Orbanek said. These students were automatically given a remote-only exemption since they are not on campus.

The city did not provide an extension for receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, meaning students and employees would need to have gotten the one-dose vaccine by yesterday, Denys wrote in an email to The Temple News.

“I think that, certainly, can feel safer here from COVID-19 than most places in the city of Philadelphia,” Orbanek said. “That’s, if you were to walk into a store or wherever, I don’t think that they would have vaccination rates as high as that. I think that’s, we’re very, very happy with that number.”

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