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 students 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 a 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 a 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 not only to employees and students 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 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). The submittal deadline for students starting or returning to campus after Fall 2021 is no later than their first date of instruction for the term when they first enroll.
3. Does this final policy require vaccination for all students or only those who participate in on-site activities?
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 students as a condition of in-person access to UC locations or programs (even if not at a UC location, such as an athletics or study abroad program) two weeks prior to the first day of instruction at the campus or school in the fall 2021 academic term. The small number of
students whose university programs are primarily remote would still need to provide proof of full vaccination or (or submit a request for exception or deferral) before returning to a campus.
The university 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. Does this requirement apply to graduate students? Some of them are employed by university.
The policy requires all graduate, undergraduate and professional students, and other personnel, 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).
5. How can students get vaccines? Will UC offer vaccinations?
UC encourages students and their families to look for opportunities near their homes to be vaccinated, such as at local pharmacies. All people ages 12 and above across the United States are now eligible to receive a vaccine. 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 am to 8 pm or Saturday and Sunday from 8 am to 5 pm.
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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. How do I demonstrate proof of vaccination? Who will maintain the student documentation?
UC campuses already have systems in place for gathering immunization information, and those platforms will be used for this requirement. Students will be required to enter dates of vaccination and upload an image of their COVID-19 vaccination card through their Student Health Services portals, where they also need to provide evidence of their other required vaccinations. UC Student Health Services staff for each location will review and verify the information.
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. Students should use the forms adopted by their campus. Details will be communicated by each campus to its students.
9. Are medical exemptions or disability or religious accommodations allowed?
Yes. Requests for an exception based on a medical exemption, disability, or religious belief Students 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. Students should use the forms adopted by their campus. Details will be communicated by each campus to its students.
10. 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? If California can eliminate personal belief and religious exceptions for K-12 students, why can’t UC do the same?
The university is required by law to offer reasonable accommodations to individuals who qualify for an exception to the vaccination requirement based on their disabilities, 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. 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, 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.
15. How will exception or exemption requests be documented and by whom?
Much of the infrastructure for reviewing compliance with health policies is already in place to support the university’s overall immunization policy. However, each campus is working through the details of the systems for documenting students who request allowable exceptions (on medical, disability, or religious grounds) or deferral (based on pregnancy). Model forms will be published with this final policy for adaptation or as-is use by each location. Students should use the forms adopted by their campus. Details will be communicated by each campus to its students.
16. 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.
17. 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. Students 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, students 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 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).
The submittal deadline for students starting or returning to campus after fall 2021 is no later than their first date of instruction for the term when they first enroll. Students who are also employees should refer to the FAQs for Employees.
18. 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. UC SHIP also covers the cost of vaccine administration.
19. 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 (WHO) has developed a process for assessing and listing unlicensed vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics during a 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 online 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.
20. 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.
21. I cannot come back to campus three to four weeks before school starts, and I can’t access any vaccine in my country. Will I be allowed on campus?
Yes. You will be allowed on campus but will be referred to a vaccine site to get vaccinated immediately, unless you qualify for a University-approved exception or deferral. Until you are fully vaccinated, you will be subject to the non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) described in Appendix A: COVID-19 Prevention Strategies for unvaccinated individuals. 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.
22. What if I experience flu-like symptoms as a result of the vaccine, and I cannot attend classes?
Students should contact their faculty/instructors regarding minor illnesses or disability services to address any significant issues.
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 students?
Students 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 attending in-person classes or events or access to campus
facilities including housing, and will be limited to online course registration. Not all courses will be offered online.
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 educational programs or 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 campus to its students.
26. Is immunization against influenza still required?
Yes. Influenza vaccination will be required for the 2021-2022 academic year.