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COVID-19 Vaccine and Mask Mandates


Faculty, Staff, and Students,

The recent disagreement between federal and state laws regarding vaccination and masking requirements has caused confusion on how the UT Health Science Center will be impacted. UTHSC receives substantial federal funding, and is therefore designated as a federal subcontractor. On Monday evening, UT President Boyd received an exemption from Tennessee state law from the State Comptroller, superseding his earlier communication. Based on our status as a federal contractor, as well as the Federal CMS Mandate, UTHSC will need to come into compliance with the federal mask mandate and the federal vaccine mandate requiring COVID-19 vaccination for all federal subcontractors.

The vaccine mandate requires ALL UTHSC EMPLOYEES to be fully vaccinated by Tuesday, January 18, 2022. This includes ALL part-time work study students, graduate students receiving a stipend, post-doctoral research trainees, clinical residents, and clinical fellows. Fully vaccinated means you must have received either two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two weeks prior to January 18, 2022. These vaccines are readily available at multiple locations. To find available COVID-19 vaccines convenient to your location, please visit https://www.vaccines.gov/search/.

While the vaccine mandate generally does not apply to students, UTHSC College of Dentistry students and Audiology and Speech Pathology students do fall under the Federal CMS Mandate, which requires them to be vaccinated because of their role in a health care clinic. The two federal mandates do not apply to any other UTHSC students in their role as students, regardless of campus, but they must comply with the mandates imposed by hospital and clinical training sites, as those institutions have set conditions and requirements for participation in clinical training. The mask mandate applies to everyone on UTHSC campuses, including students.

In order to comply with federal vaccine and masking mandates:

  1. All full-time and part-time UTHSC employees, contracted on-campus vendors, and designated students (College of Dentistry, Audiology and Speech Pathology) must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 18, 2022 or have a valid UT-approved exemption as required by this Executive Order.
  2. All UTHSC campuses will continue to follow the CDC’s current guidelines regarding masking, social distance, and other public health measures as required by this Executive Order. Currently, this requires masking and social distancing when indoors.

The UT religious exemption form is published on the UT System website at: http://tennessee.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/COVID-Religious-Accommodation-Request-Form-4841-8842-6493-4844-0331-7503.pdf.

The UT medical exemption form is published on the UT System website at: http://tennessee.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/COVID-Medical-Accommodation-Request-Form-4862-5562-5216-v.1.pdf.

All UTHSC employees must upload either proof of vaccination or a valid UT-approved exemption in IRIS by January 18, 2022:

  • Log in to IRIS with your NetID and password
  • Click “Employee Self-Service”
  • Click “Personal Information”
  • Click “COVID-19 Vaccination Verification”
  • Fill out a brief form and upload a photo of either your vaccination card or your exemption
  • Click “Submit” to finish the verification process

The UT System has compiled answers to frequently asked questions and will continue to update these.

We will continue to keep you updated of any changes to the vaccination or masking mandates.

Thank you for your adherence to these vaccine and mask requirements, so that UTHSC may continue to receive federal funds to further the UTHSC mission!

Steve Schwab, MD