All state universities across Connecticut are requiring students be vaccinated this fall, but not all students will be. More than 800 UConn students have filed for an exemption and many of them have been granted.
In total there are 32,000 students in the UConn system, and all are technically required to be vaccinated before returning to campus. However, some exemptions are being granted and most of them are for non-medical reasons.
According to a UConn spokesperson, 771 of the exemption applications received are for non-medical reasons, including personal discomfort and religious beliefs; 504 of those have been granted.
“Everyone’s entitled to their own beliefs so if it’s religious, everyone has their own religion you can’t really step in there,” said UConn senior Jason Kilcoin, who supports the vaccination requirement but also understands why some would file for an exemption.
Non-medical exemptions are not exclusive to religious beliefs and could also include personal reasons. Some students were uneasy about the exemptions.
“Hopefully when people are making that decision, they are thinking it through. Thinking about what implications it has, not only on their own health but also on their surrounding communities,” said UConn senior Janet Wang of Glastonbury.
UConn isn’t the only school managing vaccine exemptions. Schools around the state are sorting through applications. The University of Hartford says it has received 150. Still it expects to have over 90% of its student body vaccinated when the fall semester begins. Similar expectations exist at the University of New Haven.
“I can tell you with confidence that we will surpass our campus vaccination goal of 85%,” said UNH Covid Coordinator Anthony Santella.
Santella says he expects UNH’s vaccination rate to be greater than 90%, but explains they are still reviewing exemption applications.
Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, which oversees 17 schools, says it has not finalized its data but are expecting a fair amount of exemptions will be granted.
“We are required to allow for non-medical exemptions at this point in terms of receiving them. But I anticipate our numbers will be similar to UConn’s if I had to venture a guess,” said CSCU Senior Executive Director of Compliance Angelo Simoni.
Despite the exemptions, CSCU says the message that has been sent to all state school students is to get vaccinated, and Simoni says that message has been well received.
“That’s really the one thing we can do to really protect ourselves and protect the community,” said Simoni.
As for the students receiving the exemptions, every school that spoke with NBC Connecticut Tuesday said those students will face stricter protocols, including additional mask requirements and be subject to further Covid testing during the school year.