An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information about the vaccine requirement. The story has been corrected. We apologize for the error.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The University of Tennessee System will enforce a mandate requiring employees who do work related to federal contracts to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8 and is reviewing guidelines for how it applies to nonfederal employees who work in the same location.

Last month, President Joe Biden signed an order requiring federal workers and contractors to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

UT System President Randy Boyd said in the letter to employees that it appears the university is covered by the mandate. The university system holds more than 1,900 contracts with a collective value over $750 million that fall under the mandate.

UT must ensure all employees who meet the following criteria are fully vaccinated no later than Dec. 8:

  • Employees who work on covered federal contracts (even if working remotely).
  • Those who work in connection with covered federal contracts.
  • Those who work at the same location as employees who work on covered federal contracts or in connection with covered federal contracts.

With the requirement also covering those who work in the same location as those employees who do work related to federal contracts, the university system said it is closely reviewing the order to determine how it applies to the more than 12,000 employees across the state.

“We are closely reviewing the executive order and the guidance to determine how these new requirements will apply to UT employees at all campuses, institutes, extension offices and other locations and what processes need to be implemented in order to demonstrate compliance,” Boyd wrote. “In the meantime, I am strongly urging all UT employees who have not been vaccinated to once again consider getting vaccinated.”

Boyd said that until then, it is up to each campus to figure out which workers and facilities are covered. He specifically points out that the mandate applies broadly and if UT wanted to exclude a specific facility, it would have to prove that no federal contract workers are likely to be there.

There are vaccine exemptions for religious and medical reasons. However, the guidance does not include testing as an alternative to the vaccine requirement for federal employees like the option of weekly testing in lieu of vaccination for private companies with more than 100 employees.

Employees who have had a prior COVID-19 infection are also required by the executive order to be vaccinated. UT is offering options for vaccination opportunities in order to meet the deadline:

  • Oct. 27 for first dose of Moderna (2 doses needed, 4 weeks apart + 2 weeks to take full effect)
  • Nov. 3 for first dose of Pfizer (2 doses needed, 3 weeks apart + 2 weeks to take full effect)
  • Nov. 24 for Johnson & Johnson (1 dose needed + 2 weeks to take full effect)

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