UVM welcomes back students Thursday with 99.6% vax compliance

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 6:05 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - On Thursday, the University of Vermont will welcome its largest freshman class ever, but before students can start classes, they need to be fully vaccinated. The only exception is qualified exemptions approved by the school.

According to university officials, 99.6% of undergraduate students are complying with this policy. Just a little over 1% of those qualified for an exemption.

UVM officials said the ones with the exemptions will need to be tested once a week, and there hasn’t been any real pushback against this policy.

“I haven’t heard anyone upset about it,” said incoming freshman, Molly Wagner. ‘I’m happy. It’s good. They needed it because I don’t want to get COVID.”

Returning students echoed the sentiment.

“I was a little excited,” junior Megan Zalanskas said. “I feel safer on campus this year.”

“I probably would’ve felt less safe if they didn’t require it, but they had strict mask requirements, so that was helpful,” senior Lukas Keating said.

Gary Derr, the university’s vice president of operations and public safety, said students were told about the vaccine requirement in June.

He said most people have returned documentation, but they’re still waiting on a few.

“We have to work with them to get them in compliance, but they said I need to get the vaccine and I’ll get you the card shortly,” Derr explained. “We’re tracking those and I expect by the end of next week, we’ll be closer to the 100% mark.”

Even then, Derr said he expects there will still be cases.

“I think we’re equipped to handle them,” he said. “We have adequate isolation space if we need it, but with campus so highly vaccinated, I think the risk is minimal.”

Students arriving for the fall semester should be getting tested before arriving, then again once they’re on campus.

Vaccinated or unvaccinated, students will be required to wear masks indoors, per the university’s policy.

Derr said it will be a pretty typical semester.

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