Some students seek exemptions after Lenoir-Rhyne requires COVID vaccinations

HICKORY, N.C. — Lenoir-Rhyne University will require faculty, staff and students on campus to have the COVID-19 vaccine starting this fall, officials stated last Friday in a news release.

There are more than 500 colleges and universities across the country that will require the vaccine.

[READ MORE: College considers requiring vaccinations for students]

“We know that our students are eager to return to the full LR experience with in-person classes and robust social opportunities,” said Fred Whitt, university president. “Requiring the COVID-19 vaccine will ensure that our campus can return to full in-person classes, events and gatherings without physical distancing, masks, weekly testing and quarantine after exposure. Our students come from many different areas of the United States and other countries, and we want to do our part as a campus community to ensure the health, safety and well-being of our LR community and the broader community.”

The vaccine process should be completed no later than Aug. 16, school officials said.

“Completing the process means that two weeks must have passed from receiving the second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks from the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” university officials stated. “The university will consider requests for exemption based on either documented medical reasons or adherence to sincerely held bona fide religious beliefs. More than 1,000 members of the LR community, including faculty, staff and students, were vaccinated in the spring 2021 semester.”

Channel 9 found a lot of support for the vaccination requirement on campus, but reporter Dave Faherty also spoke with some students on Monday who said they were considering seeking an exemption.

“A lot of the parents were discouraged about the students being forced to do it,” said student Alvin James. “But I just feel like it’s just another vaccine like chicken pox, flu, all that.”

James, who plays football, said he’s already gotten the shot. Miguel Henning, who is a medical student and works at the university library, has also gotten his.

“I’m glad to be getting that peace of mind and know that I can be around other people and be safer,” he said.

The university said it reached out to local health officials along with the university’s Board of Trustees and leadership at the school before making the decision. The university said it will consider exemptions based on documented medical reasons or adherence to bona fide religious beliefs.

“Returning to normal recreational activities, getting the dining hall back to normal -- we’ll be able to create an actual normal college experience for our students,” said Dr. Carly York, a professor at the School of Natural Sciences.

One student told Channel 9 he’s already had COVID-19, didn’t get sick, and planned to seek an exemption.

Classes for the fall semester begin August 23.