State Watch

Hundreds of University of Rhode Island students granted vaccine exemptions

Hundreds of students attending the University of Rhode Island (URI) have been able to obtain vaccine exemptions by citing religious reasons and filling out an online form.

The school provides students with a one-page form in which they can seek exemptions by checking a box that says they do not desire to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

They are also then required to initial next to statements that detail the potential risks of not being vaccinated and the possibility that they will be asked to evacuate campus if an outbreak occurs, according to The Providence Journal.

Other Rhode Island schools reportedly require students who are seeking religious exemptions to provide a personal statement that outlines the reasons that taking the vaccine does not align with their faith or why they do not wish to get inoculated.

According to the Journal, nearly 1,080 URI students have been exempted from getting the coronavirus vaccine and most exemptions have been granted on religious grounds. This figure reportedly accounts for for seven percent of students registered for in-person classes.

URI Health Services Director Ellen Reynolds told the Journal that most students are granted exemptions as long as they fill out the form, staying in line with protocol the school implemented for other religious exemption requests that apply to vaccines for illnesses including hepatitis, the flu and measles.

“I think the discussion was that we wanted to remain consistent with what we do with our other mandated vaccine requests for religious or medical exemptions,” Reynolds said. “So as a state entity and a state school, we felt that we would keep consistent with what we’ve done with other diseases.”

Medical exemptions have been harder for students to obtain, according to Reynolds. She told the Journal that those exemptions have only been distributed for a small number of conditions, citing anaphylaxis as an example.

She went on to explain that students could possibly request religious exemptions solely because they do not want to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I think because the state of Rhode Island does not traditionally require any type of clergy or religious attestation to the form, that’s always the possibility,” Reynolds told the news outlet.

Tags Coronavirus Rhode Island University of Rhode Island vaccine mandate

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