The University of California today shared the details of its policy on COVID-19 vaccination as part of an expected return of students, faculty, academic appointees and staff to in-person instruction across the state this fall. UC shared this FAQ for faculty and staff so they could better understand how the policy will work.

1. What is the relationship between this policy and the interim policy?

This final policy (PDF) replaces the interim policy.

The final COVID-19 vaccination policy is the product of continued review of evidence from medical studies concerning the dangerousness of COVID-19 as well as the safety and effectiveness of vaccines for preventing infection, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19, and for reducing the spread of this deadly disease. The final policy is also the product of consultation with the University of California community that began in April, which revealed strong support for moving forward with a vaccination requirement now. 

To maintain the health and well-being of the campus community and that of the general public, the COVID-19 vaccination requirement applies to students and employees alike, including faculty, academic appointees, staff, postdoctoral researchers, trainees, as a condition of their physical access UC facilities, as well as in-person participation in UC programs that may occur off-site (such as UC athletics programs or study abroad). 

UC arrived at this policy after reviewing the safety and efficacy of the three vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use, and after considering the severe risks presented by a virus that has killed more than 600,000 people in the United States alone as well as the rise of variants that are more transmissible and more virulent. 

2. When does the final policy go into effect?

This final policy takes effect immediately, with a systemwide deadline for submitting proof of vaccination that depends on the location’s calendar. That deadline also applies to requests for an allowable exception (on medical, disability, or religious grounds) or deferral (based on pregnancy). 

The systemwide submittal deadline is two (2) weeks before the first day of fall 2021 instruction at any university campus or school; or September 1, 2021, for locations that do not operate on an academic calendar (e.g., UCOP, ANR, medical centers, national laboratories).

3. Does this final policy require vaccination for all employees or only those who work on-site?

The requirement to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination (or to submit a request for exception on medical, disability or religious grounds, or for a deferral based on pregnancy) takes effect for all faculty, academic appointees and staff as a condition of in-person access to UC locations or programs two weeks prior to the first day of instruction at the campus or school in the fall 2021 academic term (or, for locations not on academic calendars, Sept. 1, 2021). Even if the employee’s job does not ordinarily require them to work on-site, they would still need to provide proof of full vaccination (or submit a request for exception or deferral) before physically accessing UC facilities, such as to attend mandated staff meetings or trainings in person.  

The University of California continues to encourage all individuals to be vaccinated even if they will not be on-site at UC locations this fall. Vaccination against the virus that causes COVID-19 is a critical step for protecting the health and safety of our communities and ending the pandemic.

4. Will this requirement apply to union-represented employees?

Yes, in accordance with any applicable collective-bargaining requirements.

5. Does this requirement apply to postdocs on the same basis?

Yes, the policy requires postdoctoral researchers and trainees, who are accessing a UC facility or program in person to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, subject to the allowable exceptions (on medical, disability, or religious grounds) or deferral (based on pregnancy). 

6. How can employees get vaccines? Will UC offer vaccinations?

UC encourages faculty, academic appointees and staff to look for opportunities near their homes to be vaccinated, such as at local pharmacies. In California, you may also seek a vaccination appointment online at myturn.ca.gov or by calling 1-833-422-4255 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. or Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

All locations that are campuses and medical centers will offer COVID-19 vaccination on-site or maintain a list of nearby and accessible off-site locations offering vaccination to people covered by this policy. This provision of the policy is not intended to restrict an individual’s choice of provider but to maximize their access to the vaccine.

7. Will non-exempt employees and hourly academic appointees receive paid time off to receive the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) vaccine?

Yes, non-exempt employees and hourly academic appointees may take up to four hours of paid time to obtain each dose of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) vaccine. Employees and appointees must provide advance notice to their supervisor. If an employee or appointee needs more time for this purpose, they may request Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) (Reason 3(d)) for the additional time. Berkeley Lab employees should contact Berkeley Lab HR for assistance.

8. Is this a one-time mandate or will I be required to get boosters or annual shots?

This is a permanent policy. Infectious disease experts anticipate that annual or more frequent boosters will be necessary, and receipt of boosters will be required, consistent with product labeling, in the same way that the initial vaccination is required by this policy and subject to the same exceptions and deferrals.

9. What does “fully vaccinated” mean? Does it refer to one or two shots depending on vaccine? Does it include a period of time after the dose for an immune response?

A person is considered “fully” vaccinated” when two weeks have passed since they completed a COVID-19 vaccine series (for example, 1 dose of the Janssen/J&J vaccine, or 2 doses within no more than 12 weeks of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine) as well as any boosters consistent with manufacturer’s instructions and applicable agency approval, authorization, or listing.

10. How do I demonstrate proof of vaccination? Who will maintain the documentation?

Individuals covered by this policy must submit proof of their vaccination to their location vaccine authority. This requirement can be satisfied by providing a copy of the individual’s CDC vaccination card or non-U.S. equivalent; official documentation issued by a state vaccine registry; or an official medical record. 

Individuals covered by this policy who seek an exception (on medical, disability, or religious grounds) or deferral (during pregnancy) must complete the request form and submit it to their location’s responsible office. Model forms have been published with this final policy for adaptation or as-is use by each location. Employees should use the forms adopted by their location. Details will be communicated by each UC location to its employees. 

11. Are medical exemptions or disability or religious accommodations allowed?

Yes. Requests for an exception based on a medical exemption, disability, or religious belief will be considered. Employees whose requests are pending or have been granted will still be subject to special requirements such as increased surveillance testing. Model forms have been published with this final policy for adaptation or as-is use by each location. Employees should use the forms adopted by their campus. Details will be communicated by each UC location to its employees.

12. Why is UC allowing exceptions for reasons other than medical exemption (e.g., for reasons other than a contraindication or precaution to receiving the vaccine established by the CDC or the manufacturer)?

The university is required by law to offer reasonable accommodations to individuals who qualify for an exception to the vaccination requirement based on their disability, as well as to employees who object to vaccination based on their sincerely-held religious belief, practice, or observance. A decision was made to apply the COVID-19 vaccine mandate consistently across all groups of individuals covered by this policy. Vaccination against the virus that causes COVID-19 is a critical step for protecting the health and safety of our communities and ending the pandemic.

13. I am pregnant. Will I be eligible for a medical exemption?

No, but you are eligible for a deferral throughout your pregnancy, and may also be eligible for a disability accommodation. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pregnant people and recently pregnant people are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 when compared with non-pregnant people. Severe illnesses are illnesses that require hospitalization, intensive care, or a ventilator or special equipment to breathe, or illness that results in death. Additionally, pregnant people with COVID-19 are at increased risk of preterm birth and might be at increased risk of other adverse pregnancy outcomes compared with pregnant people without COVID-19. There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause female or male fertility problems. Accordingly, the university strongly recommends that all students, trainees, and personnel be vaccinated unless they have contraindications or precautions, as defined by the CDC. Contraindications and precautions are a condition that may increase the risk for a serious adverse reaction to the vaccine, may cause diagnostic confusion if the vaccine is administered, or may compromise the ability of the vaccine to produce immunity. However, if you are pregnant, you will be eligible for deferral through the end of the pregnancy. 

14. I was recently diagnosed with COVID-19, and/or I had an antibody test that shows that I have natural immunity. Does this support a medical exemption?

You may be eligible for a temporary medical exemption (and, therefore, a temporary exception), for up to 90 days after your diagnosis. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, “a positive result from an antibody test does not mean you have a specific amount of immunity or protection from SARS-CoV-2 infection … Currently authorized SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests are not validated to evaluate specific immunity or protection from SARS-CoV-2 infection.” For this reason, individuals who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or had an antibody test are not permanently exempt from vaccination. 

15. How do I apply for an exception or deferral?

Individuals covered by this policy who seek an exception (on medical, disability, or religious grounds) or deferral (during pregnancy) must complete the request form and submit it to their location’s Responsible Office. Model forms have been published with this final policy for adaptation or as-is use by each location. Employees should use the forms adopted by their location. Details will be communicated by each UC location to its employees. 

16. If I have applied for or been granted an exception or deferral, what non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) will I be required to observe?

See Appendix A: COVID-19 Prevention Strategies (PDF), which describes required NPIs. Additional safety measures may be deemed necessary, depending on the circumstances, by local public health, environmental health and safety, occupational health, or infection prevention authorities, including the Location Vaccine Authority. In that case, a person who has received an approved exception or deferral (or whose request is pending) will be informed of any additional requirements. 

17. Will a vaccine that is under emergency use authorization and not final FDA approval satisfy the requirement?

Yes, all COVID-19 vaccines offered under the FDA’s approval based on emergency use authorization (EUA) — or full approval by the FDA, as expected in the coming months — will satisfy the vaccination requirement.

18. What if I am not eligible for a vaccine?

All people ages 12 and older across the United States are now eligible to receive a vaccine. Employees who are eligible for a vaccine but wish to decline it may qualify for an exception (on medical, disability, or religious grounds) or deferral (based on pregnancy) under the policy. 

To allow time for processing such requests, employees should submit their requests as soon as possible, and no later than the submittal deadline: two (2) weeks before the first day of fall 2021 instruction at any University of California campus or school; or Sept. 1, 2021, for locations that do not operate on an academic calendar (e.g., UCOP, ANR, medical centers, national laboratories). 

19. Who will pay for the vaccine?

Initial supplies have been paid for by the federal government. Vaccines administered by the university to consenting covered individuals as part of the COVID-19 vaccination program (e.g., during vaccine clinics or at employee health or occupational health offices) are administered free of charge. In addition, all of the university’s health plans cover CDC-recommended vaccines administered by an employee’s primary care physician or at a local pharmacy. 

20. Will the university accept internationally approved vaccines even if not authorized or approved in the United States?

Yes, if the vaccine authorized by the World Health Organization.

The World Health Organization has developed a process for assessing and listing unlicensed vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics during public health emergencies. Through that process, a number of vaccines not available in the United States have received Emergency Use Listing (EUL). A document summarizing the status of a wide range of international vaccines can be found on the WHO’s website (click on link to status of COVID-19 vaccines in the EUL/PQ evaluation process). The university will, consistent with CDC and CDPH guidance, accept proof of full vaccination with any international vaccine that has been authorized for emergency use by WHO through the EUL process. People who have completed a COVID-19 vaccination series with one of these vaccines do not need additional doses with an FDA-licensed or -authorized COVID-19 vaccine, at least initially (but may be subject to subsequent booster requirements). Those who are not fully vaccinated generally will be required to receive an FDA-licensed or -authorized vaccine no less than 28 days after their last international vaccination (but may consult with the location vaccine authority or designee to discuss eligibility for a temporary medical exemption). In the interim, they will be treated as if they are not fully vaccinated.

21. I was vaccinated in a country where the government increased the time between first and second vaccines longer than US labeling. Do I have to be revaccinated?

No. If you have proof of completing a series of any FDA-licensed or FDA- or WHO-authorized vaccine consistent with your country’s implementation, you will be considered to have been fully vaccinated.

22. What if I experience flu-like symptoms as a result of the vaccine, and I cannot work?

Employees should contact their supervisors or local human resources offices for instruction but as a general matter, accrued sick leave, vacation, and/or PTO may be used to take time off as needed to recover. Before September 30, 2021, employees may also request EPSL (Reason 3(e)) for that purpose.  

23. I am at high risk for severe illness if I contract COVID-19 (e.g., immunocompromised) and even though I have been vaccinated, I know that no vaccine is 100% effective. Do I have to come to campus if my co-workers or students are not all vaccinated? What accommodations will be made for me?

Please contact your local disability services office to discuss your situation and possible accommodations.

24. What are the consequences of non-compliance for employees?

Employees who choose not to be immunized and who do not receive an approved medical exemption, disability or religious belief exception or a deferral based on pregnancy will not meet UC’s health and safety condition for physical access to UC facilities or in-person attendance at UC programs or events.

We have seen strong interest in receiving a COVID-19 vaccine from people across California. We believe this demand will continue and most people will make the decision to be vaccinated against a virus that can cause serious disease and has killed more than 600,000 people in the United States alone.

25. How will these consequences be enforced?

Covered individuals who fail to participate by being vaccinated or requesting an exception or deferral on or before the implementation date will not be permitted physical access to university facilities and programs, and may experience consequences as a result of non-participation, up to and including dismissal from employment.

UC campuses have systems in place for promoting and enforcing compliance with health and safety policies. Details relevant to promoting and enforcing compliance with the policy will be communicated by each location to its employees.

26. Is immunization against influenza still required?

Yes. Influenza vaccination will be required for the 2021-2022 academic year.