The University of California today shared the details of a proposed 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 what is being proposed and how the policy would work.
1. Why is UC sharing a proposed policy? When will a final policy be ready?
The university is engaging its community in a discussion of the details of the proposed policy now, so students, faculty, academic appointees and staff will have ample time to obtain the vaccine ahead of the fall semester. UC is working on the details for faculty, academic appointees and staff and is sharing the proposed policy with labor leaders. UC expects that a final policy will be ready for the start of the fall 2021 term. The proposed policy is contingent on full approval of a COVID-19 vaccine by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and reasonable access to vaccine doses.
2. Does the proposed policy require vaccination for all students or only those who participate in on-site activities?
Pending full approval of a COVID-19 vaccine by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and reasonable access to vaccine doses, the requirement to receive a COVID-19 vaccination would take effect for students who may access UC facilities or programs in person starting in the fall of 2021. Students who will participate only via remote university programs are not required to receive a vaccination for the fall but will need to be immunized before returning to a campus. However, options for remote instruction and programs will be limited.
3. What are the consequences of non-compliance for students?
We have seen strong interest in receiving a COVID-19 vaccine from people across California and the nation. 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 half a million people in the United States alone. The proposed policy is contingent on full approval of a COVID-19 vaccine by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and reasonable access to vaccine doses. If the proposed policy is adopted as drafted, students who choose not to be immunized and who do not receive an approved medical exemption or religious belief exception would remain eligible to receive university services, but will be limited in course registration, will not be permitted to attend in-person classes or events, and will not be able to access campus facilities including housing.
4. How would these consequences be enforced?
UC campuses have systems in place for promoting compliance with health and safety policies and protocols, and have enhanced these systems during the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the differences in programs and facilities at UC locations, each campus will communicate to its communities the specifics of how access to buildings and services will be managed.
5. What does “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?
Under the proposed policy, UC would require students to show proof that they have received a full dosage of a vaccine, which currently is either one or two shots depending on the type and manufacturer. The university would prefer that students receive their full dosage at least two weeks before arriving on campus, but that is not a requirement in the proposed policy as currently drafted. The COVID-19 vaccines in use, like most vaccines, take time to stimulate an antibody response that creates resistance to illness. Physical distancing, mask-wearing and frequent hand-washing and cleaning are expected to continue to be crucial for daily campus life.
6. When does the proposed policy go into effect for students?
The proposed policy for students would begin in the fall 2021 term at each UC campus. Because the dates for the start of fall terms are different across the UC system, each campus will communicate a specific date for students to fulfill the requirement. UC already strongly encourages students, faculty, academic appointees and staff to voluntarily obtain a vaccination as soon as they are eligible and able to schedule an appointment. The requirement will be mandatory only after full approval of a COVID-19 vaccine by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and sufficient availability of vaccines for all students who wish to be vaccinated.
7. Are medical exemptions or disability or religious accommodations allowed?
Yes. Medical exemption and religious belief exception requests will be considered, but if approved, may result in students being subject to special requirements like increased surveillance testing.
8. Does this requirement apply to grad students, who are generally categorized separately from undergrad students? Some of them are employed by the university.
As currently drafted, the proposed policy under review would require all graduate, undergraduate and professional students who are accessing a UC facility or program in person to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
9. 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 would 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 provide evidence of their other required vaccinations. UC Student Health Services staff for each location would review and verify the information.
10. 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 exceptions or exemptions.
11. 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 as availability on or near each campus may be limited. Students living in California should check the state’s vaccination website at myturn.ca.gov for appointment availability. All people ages 16 and above across the United States are now eligible to receive a vaccine. UC Student Health Services will assist students in identifying opportunities for vaccination if they are unable to have vaccination doses completed prior to their return to their campus community.
12. If one or more vaccines receive final FDA approval, will a vaccine that is under emergency use authorization and not final FDA approval satisfy the requirement?
Yes, all COVID-19 vaccines offered under an emergency use authorization (EUA) or full approval by the FDA will satisfy the vaccination requirement.
13. What if I am a student under the age of 16, and I’m not eligible for a vaccine?
Students who are not of eligible age to receive a COVID-19 vaccine should submit a request for a medical exemption.
14. Is the COVID-19 vaccination requirement a permanent change to the university’s immunization policy that will continue the requirement in future years?
Vaccination remains the most effective way to bring this pandemic to an end and to prevent a resurgence of the pandemic in local and campus communities. We strongly encourage everyone throughout all of our communities to be vaccinated as well as to continue physical distancing, mask-wearing and frequent hand-washing. At this time, the COVID-19 vaccination requirement would be a permanent update to the university’s policies and would take effect beginning in the 2021-2022 academic year.
15. Is immunization against influenza still required?
The UC requirement for influenza vaccination is still in effect through June 30. A determination has not yet been made whether the influenza immunization requirement will be continued for the 2021-2022 academic year. Any changes or continuation of that requirement will be announced at a later date.