Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday expressed his opposition to mass COVID-19 vaccine requirements, particularly in the state’s K-12 schools.
"I do not foresee mandates for school systems in Tennessee,” Lee said. “Vaccines are a choice, and people have the choice and will have the choice as to whether or not they should take this vaccine."
Yet vaccine requirements are legal in Tennessee and exemptions to such requirements are only made on religious grounds, and even then only “in the absence of an epidemic or immediate threat thereof.”
But a group of Tennessee Republican lawmakers are seeking to change that language, filing a bill that would allow for religious exemptions no matter the state’s public health status.
When asked about University of Tennessee leaders’ decision to require COVID vaccines, Lee said it was up to them.
Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said the state expects to get its first doses of new COVID-19 vaccines by mid-December. Those early doses will be reserved for certain groups, including frontline health care providers. Full deployment of the vaccine could be complete by late spring or early summer, she said.