Some TN universities granted exemptions to new COVID-19 legislation

NASHVILLE — There are four Tennessee universities that have been granted exemptions to the state’s new COVID-19 legislation, allowing them to enforce vaccine mandates.

The exemptions were granted this week after Gov. Bill Lee signed the bills Friday, according to the Comptroller’s Office.

The four universities granted exemptions are:

  • East Tennessee State University (Nov. 15)
  • University of Memphis (Nov. 15)
  • University of Tennessee and satellites (Nov. 15)
  • Vanderbilt University (Nov. 15)

According to officials, if these schools were not granted exemptions, they would have been in violation of federal law.

The new laws say state-funded institutions are prohibited from requiring vaccines or masks, except in very specific circumstances.

The exemptions will expire one year from the effective date unless extended, a release said.

The University of Memphis released this statement:

Dear Faculty, Staff and Student Employees: On October 21, our campus issued a communication regarding Executive Order 14042. We now have confirmation that this mandate will apply to the University of Memphis. As a federal contractor, we are required to provide proof of vaccinations for all employees at the UofM. This includes all full-time and part-time faculty and staff, including adjunct faculty, temporary employees, graduate assistants and student workers. This also includes offsite workers. Exceptions are permitted for those who have an approved medical condition or sincerely held religious beliefs. The mandate specifies the final vaccination must be administered by January 4, 2022. The University is required to produce vaccine documentation for employees. As such, employees should securely upload confirmation of their COVID-19 vaccination records via this portal. Employees must receive the vaccine dosages as outlined below, based on which vaccination they choose, to meet the January 4 deadline:


  • First Dose-- Dec. 7
  • Second Dose-- Jan. 4


  • First Dose-- Dec. 14
  • Second Dose-- Jan. 4

Johnson & Johnson

  • First Dose-- Jan. 4

Those seeking a medical or religious exemption can submit the application along with appropriate documentation to Please begin that process as soon as possible to receive confirmation of approval prior to the January 4 deadline.As a reminder, all employees are eligible for two hours of paid leave to receive each vaccination. For your convenience, the University is offering vaccinations on campus. Additionally, you may find local sites offering vaccines at For any further questions or clarification, please contact Human Resources at For the latest COVID-19 updates from the University of Memphis, testing details and vaccine information, visit