(Maddie Stellingwerf/Emerald)

 This spring, UO announced that students and staff who live, work or learn on campus are required to get a COVID-19 vaccine before the start of fall term, with options for medical and non-medical exemptions. 

“UO will recognize both medical and non-medical exemptions to the vaccine requirement, consistent with state law,” according to UO’s Corvanvirus Information page. “Non-medical exemptions include the informed decision to decline immunization due to religious belief, philosophical belief, or other personal reasons, including but not limited to an informed decision to wait for one of the vaccine options to have full FDA approval.” 

Last week, the Emerald asked the UO community what they thought about UO’s vaccine requirement and exemptions and what they’d say to students deciding whether or not get a COVID-19 vaccine. About 60 individuals submitted responses through an online form. Here's what they said. 

Student responses

“I think this policy is a reasonable one because we as a community would like to be able to attend school and activities in-person for the year. Regarding the exemptions, however, I am okay if a student is requesting for an exemption for medical reasons if they were advised by their doctor. I can respect religious and philosophical reasons, but they should reconsider being vaccinated for the fall by being informed of the vaccine by talking to a medical professional for further information and to answer any questions they may have about the vaccine.” — Kayla Lockwood, UO senior studying art & technology

“I think it’s very good that the university has a vaccine mandate, however I fear that some of the exemptions (particularly the philosophical objection) leave too much of a slippery slope and may very likely be abused by anti-vaxxers. In the case that a lot of people do take advantage of the exemptions, it could cause a lot of issues for a smooth return to in-person attendance.” — Patrick Schranck, UO senior studying cinema studies

“I think the policy is completely reasonable given the situation, and I think this is the only way to succeed with in-person activities. Looking at other institutions and countries, I have seen that many are requiring proof of vaccination for various things.” — Chloe Bridges, UO junior studying political science

“I think by allowing exemptions other than medical, the school has defeated the purpose of the vaccine mandate. If someone’s personal reason not to get vaccinated is that they don’t believe in COVID-19 then they are endangering the lives of other students on campus. If this is UO’s policy than the school shouldn’t say it’s requiring all students and faculty to be vaccinated because clearly they aren’t.” — Fiona Gibbens, UO junior studying journalism and cinema

“I think that it is too lenient. All students should be required to be vaccinated unless they have medical or religious reasons. There should be no option for ‘personal reasons.’ People will use personal reasons as a loophole. It should be stricter. I would like to be safe in my community, if people simply don’t want to be vaccinated they don’t have to attend UO.” — Tess Murphy, UO sophomore studying journalism. 

“I think everyone should be vaccinated and that we shouldn’t allow exemptions except for serious medical reasons.” — Lucy Partridge, UO sophomore studying planning, public policy and management

“Exceptions for non-medical reasons should be excluded completely. We should all do our part in creating a safer environment for everyone.” —Luis Fernando Guzman Nateras, third year UO PhD student studying computer science

“I believe that aside from medical reasons all UO community members should be required to get vaccinated. If not, they should not be allowed to participate in in-person activities since this will increase risks for the WHOLE UO community.” —Antonella Onofrietti Magrassi, UO senior studying school psychology

Alumni responses

“I don't think religious and so-called philosophical exemptions have any place in a pandemic. Wear a mask, get vaccinated if you are physically able to do so.”— C. Hahn, UO alumnus

“It's a recipe for disaster. International students for example, are required to submit vaccination records, and this has never been an issue. Please reconsider!!” — Jorge Briceño González, UO alumnus

Parent responses

“It seems like the exemption categories are very broad. Someone could simply say that for ‘personal reasons’ they don’t want to get vaccinated, potentially putting others at risk. I feel the exemption reasons should be tighter.” — Sandra Warner, parent of a UO student

“I think it's great! If you can't get vaccinated due to health or religious reasons, I understand, but hopefully the U of O has safeguards in place for them.” — Charles Hajduk, parent of a UO student

“I love it. Everyone should be vaccinated. It’s the only way to put this nasty COVID beast to sleep forever!” — Anne DeMar, parent of a UO student

“I agree with the policy and believe exemptions should only be granted to those with documented medical reasons or those who can show they are an active member of a religion that does not allow vaccines. Granting anyone who asks for an exemption means you are not requiring vaccines, you are just suggesting them. Such a policy makes me very uneasy about sending my daughter to UO.” — Robin Renshaw, parent of a UO student

“I feel that a religious or philosophical reason to not get vaccinated is not good enough. If they don't want it, fine, but they cannot attend classes on campus. It's not fair to the thousands of other students and faculty who have gotten it to try to get back to a normal life.” — Sharon Friedman

“I think it should be required for all people on campus. Those that get exemptions should have very strict guidelines (they need to wear a mask, be tested weekly). Exemptions should also have very strict guidelines to ensure that documentation is legitimate. We will defer for our out of state student if UO requires masks and classes are online (and that will be heartbreaking for all of us!) Please hold the line on vaccinations! PLEASE.”  — Marlo Butler, parent of a UO student

“Grateful for the policy! The only exception should be medical, however, with proof from a physician. I would implore all students and staff to get vaccinated ASAP.  The more we learn about the new varieties and poor vaccination rates, the mask mandates need to be enforced in all campus buildings etc.” —Kelly Matyas, parent of a UO student

“I think being vaccinated is so important, not just for the safety of the person vaccinated, but for the safety of the community. I fully understand being exempt for medical reasons, but not for religious or ‘philosophical’ reasons. I think that if you don’t want to be vaccinated because your religion or philosophy doesn’t believe it’s necessary, then you shouldn’t be allowed to attend in-person classes. That part of the requirement is a loophole that many people are going to take advantage of and weaken the strength of being vaccinated. When we were looking at schools, I loved how liberal UO was, but I think this ‘inclusivity’ is going to be a huge detriment.”— Nickie Bryar, parent of a UO student

“Bravo UO!!  It helps to make me feel my child is safer!” — Michelle Patino, parent of a UO student

“I must amend my prior statement.  I’m glad UO is taking a stance; however, I’m horrified at the allowable exemptions.  This is going to greatly put others at risk.  Why not require it for anyone attending in person classes and activities?  It’s fine to allow exemptions  as long as those folks aren’t on campus.” — Michelle Patino

“I hope all students get vaccinated and hope only those with true medical exemptions are the only ones who do not.”  —Kim Thoren, parent of a UO student

“I agree with mandating vaccines. The only exemption should be documented medical reasons. I would not accept any other exemptions.” —Jill Spadia, parent of a UO student

“I understand not being vaccinated for legitimate medical reasons (although those are very few) but for philosophical reasons? That's just not fair to vaccinated people. Why even bother saying that the vaccine is required if you are allowing exemptions for any reason? Attendance at UO is not a right, it is a privilege. If you don't want to get vaccinated go somewhere else or get an online degree.” —Sandra Barr

“I think this is the most responsible decision. Kids are coming from all over and living and studying in enclosed places. Getting vaccinated helps to ensure our students’ safety. If you can’t get the vaccine because of medical reasons, then everyone else needs to step up and help others out by not objecting for religious or personal reasons. This is a pandemic!” — Claudia Grubbs, parent of a UO student

“I only think medical exemptions should be allowed. If a student chooses not to be vaccinated for other reasons, I do not think they should be allowed on campus. They can attend classes remotely. Allowing these students to be in contact with other students and faculty puts the community at risk.” — Leslie Millers, parent of a UO student

“Absolutely important — it's the only way the university can get back to normal. Thanks!” — Caroline Howell, parent of a UO student

“I LOVE this policy! Absolutely the right decision!” — Peter Adams, parent of a UO student

“Vaccination should be required. If students want an exemption, they can do classes virtually.” — Cristina DeLuca, parent of a UO student

“I think everyone should be vaccinated, with the exception of medical reasons. Maybe those who are not vaccinated have to live off campus and sit in a special spot in the classroom. We’re headed back into this mess because of the unvaccinated, so make them do their part by staying away from the rest of us.” — Shannon Somerset, parent of a UO student

“Everyone needs to be vaccinated — the virus is not religious and doesn’t care what your philosophy is. Medical exemptions should only be granted in extreme cases and those kids should all be tested often and live together with others who are also not vaccinated, or do online school if they are at high risk.” — Robin lanahan, parent of a UO student

“I am in full agreement with the policy other than I think that people do not have a ‘right’ to go to school, so if they aren’t vaccinated, they shouldn’t be there.  Religious and philosophical exemptions make the mandate null.  I would and do tell people that they are quite nuts, truthfully, not to get the vaccination. Science matters.” — Cindi Beaman, parent of a UO student

“Is there any discussions or exemptions for those who test positive for the covid 19 antibodies or T cells since they had the disease? This should be another option.” — Lisa Turner, parent of a UO student

“I am a physician and work in healthcare. I am vaccinated and spent months giving shots so you can interpret my comments in that context.  I’m watching as Delta is finding all the unvaccinated in our community and several young people occupying beds in our ICU fight for their lives. And with this spread, many vaccinated people are also getting sick — albeit far fewer are coming to the hospital. Our hospital is mandating vaccinations and only allowing exceptions based on medical or religious grounds and those exempted must not only wear a mask but be tested twice a week.  I understand that a university is not a healthcare setting, but you have tons of kids living and learning in close quarters. Are kids going to mask while showering in a communal bathroom? Dining indoors is a huge risk for spread — will unvaccinated kids or staff be permitted to dine indoors?  You  have staff with young kids who can’t be vaccinated due to their age. I do not believe there are legitimate  ‘philosophical’ objections. People don’t get to put others at risk and masking alone is not sufficient to prevent indoor spread. I appreciate the huge effort that would be required to review exemption requests, but if UO is not resourced for that, then weekly testing for those who are allowed to opt out should be mandatory. There are many options to do this and set up tracking.  As everyone has to mask anyway,  saying this is a vaccine ‘requirement’ but not having any review of exemptions and not requiring weekly testing really takes away any force this requirement would otherwise have. If UO is planning to review exemptions and/or require testing for those unvaccinated — then just ignore me! Thanks for listening!” — Susan Cumming, parent of a UO student

“People who are exempt need to be tested weekly and should have a written doctor explanation of exemption.  Those who are vaccinated are part of the solution to get us out of this pandemic.  Until all businesses, public or private, are part of the solution to protect their employees and patrons (require proof of vaccination to travel, eat inside, attend events, go to work, etc.), this pandemic will drag on, the economy will not get better and more people will die.” — Ann Cadavona, parent of a UO student

“I think that all students who want to have classes in person should be required to be vaccinated. Students/employees who want to be exempt should do online instruction.” — Michelle Anderson

“I think as long as you are honoring people who have documented paperwork as to why they cannot have the vaccine, then I agree with it. It should be required in order to keep the students safe. With the Delta variant spreading the last thing these kids want is going back to things being restricted. Keep up the good work and thank you!” — Denise Cherry, parent of a UO student

“The exemptions are too liberal. The policy should be limited to medical or religious reasons only. It's far too easy to avoid getting vaccinated under this policy and will prevent many students and employees from getting vaccinated, thus slowing our ability to achieve proper herd immunity. Everyone in the campus community who is safely able to needs to get vaccinated in order to protect those who are immunocompromised and those who cannot get vaccinated due to medical conditions (such as Guillain Barre syndrome). Philosophical or ‘other personal reasons’ are a cop out and do nothing to help further the cause of improved public health for the Eugene community and the U of O campus.” — Rhonda Murphy, parent of a UO student

“I’d like to have more clarity on the exemptions for ‘philosophical, or other personal reasons.’ Vaccinations are the path to getting back to a more normal life and I welcome the requirement for students and faculty. If exemptions are given to too many people then it is useless to say vaccines are required. It just becomes a placating policy for those who are concerned about returning. The student population, in my opinion, would be less likely to take the time to get vaccinated if it is not required and yet be more likely to spread infection with communal living arrangements and the understandable desire to socialize with their peers.” — Karey Gold, parent of UO student

“My son is fully vaccinated. I will not be comfortable if my son is sharing a room with someone who is unvaccinated. Also,  I understand an exemption for medical reasons, but I feel like the other exemptions are way too broad given how highly transmissible the Delta variant is. The last thing all our students want is for there to be such a large outbreak that school needs to go remote again. I think this will be extremely detrimental to all the students’ mental health given the last 18 months. I think anyone who is unvaccinated needs to be tested weekly and possibly have stricter masking requirements. Indoor dining is also a concern. Hopefully unvaccinated students will be offered vaccines if they change their minds.” — Karen Buttwinick, parent of a UO student

“I agree with your policy and the exemptions you are allowing.” — Christine Brown, parent of a UO student

“It's no different than the immunizations that any student must receive to attend public schools for their entire school life. To my Duck we say, ''we not only want to protect you from deadly diseases but, as a good human, we want to protect those around you as well.'' — Stosh Jarecki, parent of a UO student. 

“Vaccination is the responsible action to take to protect yourself and those around you. As a healthcare provider, I find the resistance to vaccination against COVID-19 to be selfish and self-serving. Let’s think about our families, friends and communities ahead of ourselves.” — Caroline Wilson, parent of a UO student

“I think the ONLY exemptions should be for medical and TRUE religious reasons and no other and those people should have to test weekly without exception.”  — Heidi Feeney, parent of a UO student

“I’m a nurse and my husband is a surgeon. This policy makes no sense. This just allows those that don’t want it to come up with any reason. You may as well not require it at all. It should be required for all. If you don’t want to get the vaccine then do remote learning.” — Colette Cuadrado, parent of a UO student

“Support the requirement 100%.  Exemptions exist for all vaccinations, unfortunately.”  — Katharine Nyhus, parent of a UO student

“Please just get vaccinated.” — Genene Turndorf, parent of a UO student

“Eliminate religious exemptions. All should follow this common sense public health policy. Vaccinate or transfer to another school.” — Joshua  Field, parent of a UO student

“I am very relieved that UO is requiring vaccinations for the students and employees. My son is a rising sophomore and sadly he has not had the opportunity to experience college life as we all hoped he would. He does much better with in-person learning and we look forward to him being able to meet his professors and hopefully have a more fulfilling college experience. My husband and I wish UO limited the exemptions to medical and religious reasons only. We feel that there are many people out there who believe misinformation and will opt out of getting vaccinated based on inaccurate information. We hope UO continues to have ALL classes in person with a mandatory mask requirement so everyone stays healthy. Please consider tightening up the reasons for exemptions and please make all classes in-person. The students deserve to have a proper/full academic college experience.” — Lisa Chasin, parent of a UO student