University of Tennessee students may be required to take COVID-19 vaccine next year

University of Tennessee students may be required to take COVID-19 vaccine next year

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Across the entire University of Tennessee system, there are nearly 220 active cases among students and staff and 1,078 in quarantine.

Friday morning, the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees took a big step to require students next year to not only take the flu shot, but also the COVID-19 vaccine.

“There’s a lot we don’t know, but I do like the fact that we’re getting ready to be able to make a rule to allow us to hopefully open up in the fall of 2021, wide open, and as close to normal as we can,” trustee Donnie Smith said.

UT Knoxville made national headlines in September after an outbreak of COVID-19 cases were linked to fraternity and sorority parties.

Friday, the 12-member board of trustees gave UT President Randy Boyd authority to require the COVID-19 vaccine for students across the UT system pending approval.

Friday, Pfizer applied for emergency vaccine approval, making it possible to have a vaccine ready for distribution by the end of this year.

“I think it’s wonderful. I’m really excited about the vaccine. I just think there are people who aren’t, and this thing has changed so much in the past seven or eight months,” trustee Bill Rhodes said.

The board added a stipulation that President Boyd would need to come back before the board before putting the required vaccination rule in place.

However, Dr. Scott Strome, executive dean for the college of medicine and vice-chancellor of clinical affairs at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, says he feels very optimistic about the vaccine.

“I want to be the first in line and maybe that sums it up better than anything,” Strome said.

Strome admits due to the accelerated timeline for approval of the vaccine there is simply little we know about the long-term effects.

“In everything we do in medicine, there’s a risk versus a benefit. What I can tell you is vaccine technology in the vast majority, but not all cases, is incredibly safe and it’s our best mechanism to prevent disease,” Strome said.

There are exemptions to the immunization rule including online students, medical exceptions or students who have religious objections.

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