Covid-19 Vaccination Exemptions: Their Process and How They Work

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As students have returned to Rowan University’s campus this fall semester for in-person classes, guidelines and requirements are in place for students to help protect against COVID-19 transmission. These include wearing masks during classes and submitting a COVID-19 vaccination record.  However, there are exceptions that allow some students to opt out of getting the vaccination.

Students are able to opt out of the COVID-19 vaccine for medical or religious reasons. To do this, students must complete the COVID-19 Vaccine Declination Form – giving their reason(s) and stating that they understand the risks of contracting and transmitting COVID-19. Those who are exempt are required to submit to weekly testing and upload it to the Wellness Center’s document website. Rowan has also stated that the vaccine policy may change in the future.

A medical exemption requires uploading the declination form alongside a signed statement of exemption from the student’s primary care provider.  A religious exemption requires uploading the declination form alongside a written statement from the student explaining that vaccines conflict with their religious beliefs.

“Anyone requesting a religious exemption must submit a signed attestation that the vaccine violates the tenets of their religion,” states Rowan’s “Questions and Answers” webpage.  “This accommodation is allowed under New Jersey health codes.”

When the vaccine was authorized on an emergency-use basis, students could get a “personal exemption.”  On Aug. 23, the Food and Drug Administration announced that the Pfizer vaccine was approved for people aged 16 and older.  Upon this announcement, Rowan announced that they would no longer be accepting personal exemptions. Any students who had selected the “personal” declination were required to either re-submit the declination form for either medical or religious reasons, or provide proof of their second vaccination dose – if using the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines – by Oct. 7.

Unvaccinated students are required to participate in weekly COVID-19 testing, scheduled by the Office of the Dean of Students.  They are also urged to continue wearing a face mask at all times. This is different from guidelines for vaccinated students, who are able to meet unmasked in small groups where social distancing is practiced.

If an unvaccinated student does not follow testing protocols, they will be “held accountable” by the Office of the Dean of Students.

“Students who do not comply with testing will be held accountable through removal from in-person classes, revocation of housing and dismissal from the University,” according to Rowan’s “Questions and Answers” webpage.

Based on Rowan’s most recently-released figures, as of Sept. 9, 1,412 students – or 8.5% — of students taking in-person classes have requested a COVID-19 vaccine exemption.

Students who did not submit either the vaccine record or the declination form – making up 5.2% of students taking in-person classes, or 876 – had holds placed on their accounts and were unable to attend classes or move into campus housing.

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