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'These are serious decisions' | As some colleges and universities in the Carolinas require the COVID-19 vaccine, students weigh options

Close to a dozen colleges and universities in North Carolina are requiring COVID-19 vaccination for students and staff, but there are exemptions.

NORTH CAROLINA, USA — Some students and parents are speaking out against the colleges and universities that are requiring students, faculty and staff all be vaccinated before returning to campus in the fall. Legal experts explain there are a few ways to be exempt from these vaccination requirements.

Liberty Counsel is working with people all across the country who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine for various reasons. Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver says all states have medical opt-outs for vaccines and most states have religious accommodation provisions, but no one should be forced to get vaccinated.

“Under the federal emergency use authorization provision these can not be coerced," Staver said. "They must be administered only by full and informed consent without any coercion.”

That means technically colleges and universities can't threaten to punish or unenroll students if they refuse to take the vaccine.

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"Everybody's side should be taken into consideration," Lenoir-Rhyne University Senior Aubrey Holman said. "I think it's their choice."

Holman started this online petition demanding the university remove the COVID-19 vaccination requirement.  As a nursing student, she says she understands a patient's preference. 

"If a patient came to me and said what's your views on this vaccination, I'll tell them it's their choice," Holman said. "They have the right to say they can be vaccinated if they want to, if they don't want to be vaccinated they don't have to be."

Thursday afternoon students and parents at Lenoir-Rhyne protested the campus COVID-19 vaccination requirement. In a statement, a spokesperson said the university is committed to hearing all Lenoir-Rhyne students' concerns and is open to scheduling meetings with students to further discuss those concerns.

But Wake Forest University is leaving students little choice, saying students who have not submitted proper proof of vaccination prior to the Aug. 1 deadline will be unenrolled 

RELATED: Wake Forest University to begin 'removing' students with no proof of COVID-19 vaccine from enrolled courses and housing in August

RELATED: 'We want immunity in our community' | Colleges and universities requiring COVID-19 vaccine to help return to normal operations

Staver says if the vaccination exemptions aren't granted to students then the next step would likely be a legal challenge in state or federal court. 

“These are serious decisions and the decisions should be made voluntarily by each individual," Staver said.

Here's a look at the schools in North and South Carolina requiring COVID-19 vaccinations according to University Business.

NORTH CAROLINA: 

  • Brevard College
  • Duke University
  • Elon University
  • Johnson C. Smith University
  • Lees-McRae College
  • Lenoir-Rhyne University
  • Livingstone College
  • Queens University
  • Salem College
  • Shaw University
  • Union Presbyterian Seminary-Charlotte
  • Wake Forest University
  • Warren Wilson College

SOUTH CAROLINA:

  • Furman University
  • Wofford College

Contact Briana Harper at bharper@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.