NewsLocal News


As COVID-19 vaccines become mandated, questions over religious, medical exemptions grow

leffel vaccine cu anschutz.jpg
Posted at 6:32 PM, Sep 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-11 15:50:42-04

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — As health organizations and companies begin mandating COVID-19 vaccines, the questions over religious and medical exemptions have grown.

However, not a single major religious institution takes official stance against vaccinations.

As Kaiser Health News notes, even leaders in Christian science feel a commitment to "report suspected communicable diseases, obey quarantines and strive to cooperate with measures considered necessary by public health officials."

Those same faith leaders go on to say they "see this as a matter of golden rule ethics and new testament love."

Austin Leffel, a student at the Colorado School of Public Health — which is made up of the University of Colorado, Colorado State University and the University of Northern Colorado — says he submitted paperwork for a religious exemption and was denied.

"I thought about getting the vaccine very diligently. I actually drew on a dry erase board the pros and cons," he said.

Leffel said in his case, the cons outweighed the pros, and he ultimately decided against getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

"I, like spiritually, could not comprehend putting something in my body that there's no longitudinal quantitative data that supports it," he said. "This is where they denied it fully," Leffel said. "They do not perceive agnostic as a religion."

Jennifer Reich, a professor at CU Denver said when it comes to being granted a religious exemption, some will be more successful than others.

"The rules around non-medical exemptions for religion have really focused on what those faith beliefs are and how we balance your constitutional right to freedom of religion against our community goals to protect individuals," Reich said.

She said exemptions when it comes to COVID-19 have gotten complicated, so she isn't surprised to hear of Leffel's situation since it's all so new.

"What we have in particular cases are laws that require things like health care workers to be vaccinated against certain vaccine preventable diseases or seasonally against influenza," she said.

As for Leffel, he said all he can do now is wait.

"I'm going to continue going to school until I get a letter saying I can no longer attend classes, but everything in my heart says it's done," Leffel said. "For now, I honestly will just stay working for a brewery and trying to figure out my next step."