Carnegie Mellon University

COVID-19 Updates

Information and resources for the CMU community

Scotty with mask and vaccination bandaid

Vaccines for COVID-19

Last updated: 9/24/21

Importance, Safety, Eligibility and Distribution

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available including getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines work with your immune system so your body will be ready to fight the virus if you are exposed. Other steps, like wearing facial coverings and physical distancing, help reduce your chance of being exposed to the virus or spreading it to others.

It's important to recognize that long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put many people from racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19. The Pennsylvania Department of Health has worked throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to address these disparities within not only racial and ethnic minority groups, but other marginalized populations. 

Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following the CDC's recommendations to protect yourself and others offer the best protection from COVID-19.

Visit the CMU Vaccine page to learn more.

Researchers were not starting from scratch when they learned about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Scientists have been studying coronaviruses for over 50 years and they had existing data on the structure, genome and life cycle of this type of virus.

According to the CDC, the COVID-19 vaccines being used have gone through rigorous studies to ensure they are as safe as possible. Systems that allow CDC to watch for safety issues are in place across the entire country.

Currently, there are three vaccines approved or authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended to prevent COVID-19:

These vaccines have been shown to meet rigorous safety criteria and be effective as determined by data from the manufacturers and findings from large clinical trials. Watch a video describing the emergency use authorization.

Clinical trials for all vaccines must first show they meet rigorous criteria for safety and effectiveness before any vaccine, including COVID-19 vaccines, can be authorized or approved for use. The known and potential benefits of a COVID-19 vaccine must outweigh the known and potential risks of the vaccine.

Learn more about how federal partners ensure the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in the United States.

We know the pause in distribution of this vaccine gave rise to important questions about safety.

Since the April 13, 2021 announcement, the CDC and FDA partnered to complete a thorough safety review of the J&J vaccine. They conducted extensive outreach to providers and clinicians to discuss the extremely rare incidence of blood clots that had been reported.

On April 23, 2021, the CDC and FDA released a joint statement declaring use of the J&J COVID-19 Vaccine should be resumed in the United States: “The FDA and CDC have confidence that this vaccine is safe and effective in preventing COVID-19. The FDA has determined that the available data show that the vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks in individuals 18 years of age and older."

All people living in the United States age 12 and older are eligible to schedule a vaccine appointment.

On May 12, 2021, the CDC director adopted the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommendation that endorsed the safety and effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and its use in 12- through 15-year-old adolescents. The CDC now recommends that this vaccine be used among this population, and providers may begin vaccinating them right away.

Yes, anyone living in the United States age 12 and older, including international students, are eligible to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. A passport or other photo identification will suffice when checking in to receive your vaccine. 

According to the CDC, getting a COVID-19 vaccine:

  • Helps keep you from getting COVID-19 and is a safer way to help build protection

  • Allows you to start doing more (once you are fully vaccinated) 

  • Serves as an important tool to help stop the pandemic

Learn more from the CDC about the benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health encourages college students to get vaccinated as quickly as possible. Choosing to get a vaccine marks an important step to protect your own health and the health of everyone around you as we continue to unite against COVID-19. Students should work to schedule their vaccination appointment at their earliest convenience at a location closest to them.

Learn more on this fact sheet on the Vaccination of College Students (PDF) from the PA Department of Health.

At this time, the university and CDC do not recommend antibody testing once fully vaccinated. Antibody testing is typically not covered by insurance coverage carriers.

The CDC has no data on the benefits or harm of revaccination with either Pfizer or Moderna, however, you can be revaccinated should you choose to do so. In order to be eligible for revaccination, you must wait 28 days after your last vaccine dose before a new, two-dose series of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. The side effects for revaccination should be the same as those for regular vaccination.

The CDC recommends vaccination for all eligible people, including individuals with prolonged post-COVID-19 symptoms (i.e. loss of sense of smell/taste). There is no recommended minimum waiting period between infection and vaccination, however, you should hold on vaccination until recovery from acute illness symptoms and have met criteria to discontinue isolation before vaccinating.

We are following FDA booster shot recommendations closely and working to share information for resources on booster shots.

Faculty and staff should check with their healthcare providers about eligibility. 

Vaccine Requirements for Fall 2021

To be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, all CMU students, along with faculty and staff working in Pennsylvania, California, Washington D.C., New York and Virginia, are required to either (i) be vaccinated with a WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccine and document their vaccination status or (ii) receive an approved exemption for medical, religious or strong moral/ethical conviction reasons.

Those granted an exemption must comply with additional mitigation requirements to participate in campus life, including the use of facial coverings and completion of the Daily Self-Assessment and weekly Tartan Testing.

Our goal is to have almost all of our community members vaccinated. We are providing multiple opportunities for individuals to receive the vaccine, and we will continue to do so throughout the fall.

These requirements apply to all CMU students, faculty and staff working in Pennsylvania, California, Washington D.C., New York and Virginia. CMU’s global locations will communicate vaccine and mitigation requirements to their faculty and staff separately, consistent with their regional contexts.

CMU accepts all World Health Organization (WHO)-authorized vaccines, in addition to the FDA-approved or authorized vaccines in the U.S.

As of June 1, 2021, the WHO has listed Pfizer/BioNTechAstrazeneca-SK BioSerum Institute of IndiaJanssen (Johnson & Johnson), Moderna, Sinopharm and Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use.

Yes, all students, faculty and staff are required to participate in the CMU COVID-19 Vaccine Database as part of the university's fall 2021 vaccine requirement.

Students are required to participate in CMU's COVID-19 Vaccine Database as part of the university's fall 2021 vaccine requirement and must either request an exemption or upload confirmation of their vaccination status. If you have not done so already, upload your vaccination status to the CMU Vaccine Database immediately. 

Faculty and staff are required to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and upload vaccination documentation into the CMU Vaccine Database by September 30.

Individuals who have begun their vaccination process should upload their first dose documentation into HealthConnect and then follow up with second dose documentation (if required).  

Please note that until full documentation is uploaded, students, faculty and staff will be expected to participate in all mitigation requirements and testing protocols.

You can learn more about the process and how to submit your documentation on the COVID-19 CMU Vaccine Database page.

You will not receive an immediate confirmation after uploading. A member of our staff will review your upload within five business days. After we have verified your record, you will see your COVID-19 vaccine listed under Immunizations in the left menu.

If you’ve lost or misplaced your card, please contact your primary care physician or the place where you received your vaccinations to get a new card.

If you were vaccinated in Pennsylvania, you can contact the PA Department of Health at 877.774.4748 or email RA-DHPASIIS@pa.gov and request replacement documentation.

Additionally, to ensure timely reporting of your vaccinated status, please contact drbc@andrew.cmu.edu for help with questions related to reporting status for individuals who were not issued a COVID-19 vaccination card, lost/misplaced it or have other questions related to uploading an image of the card.

Yes, if vaccination is not advised for medical reasons or conflicts with your religious belief/strong moral or ethical conviction. You can find and submit a vaccine exemption form in HealthConnect, under Downloadable Forms.

Learn more about immunizations and vaccines on the University Health Services website.

Yes, if vaccination is not advised for medical reasons or conflicts with your religious belief/strong moral or ethical conviction. You can find and submit the applicable vaccine exemption form by visiting the HR Faculty and Staff COVID-19 Vaccination Exemption webpage.

Visit the Vaccine Clinics and Resources webpage to learn more about available resources.

Those granted an exemption must comply with all applicable COVID-19 mitigation requirements to participate in campus life, including the use of facial coverings, completion of the Daily Self-Assessment and weekly Tartan Testing.

For questions related to the exemption process, please contact Equal Opportunity Services (EOS) at employeeaccess@andrew.cmu.edu or 412-268-3930.

Enrolled students at CMU include:

  • Part-time and full-time students
  • Non-degree students
  • Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education and dual degree students from other institutions 

Carnegie Mellon University required all enrolled students, both domestic and international, to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19, effective this fall semester. This policy applied to all undergraduate and graduate students, as well as visiting, non-degree, guest and cross-registered students, in U.S.-based programs and students participating in approved study abroad programs overseas. CMU faculty and staff members taking courses as a non-degree student must also be vaccinated.

To determine if you require additional vaccination, read the statements on the vaccination and/or revaccination guidelines page and select the one that fits your current vaccination status. Based on the information in the expanded guidance, be sure to complete any applicable steps needed.

In connection with the launch of the fall semester, the university required every student to complete two baseline tests (regardless of vaccination status) through the Tartan Testing program.

Unvaccinated students or students who are not fully vaccinated are required to continue testing weekly through the Tartan Testing program. 

In light of concern about the Delta variant and rising COVID-19 cases throughout the country, CMU has taken the critical step of requiring all faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated in order to further protect the safety of our campus and neighboring communities.

Yes, faculty and staff should plan to get their vaccination as soon as possible, and when fully vaccinated, upload documentation even if not planning to be on campus regularly. You can learn more about the process and how to submit your documentation on the COVID-19 Vaccine Database website.

Please note that until documentation is uploaded, staff and faculty members will be considered to be unvaccinated for the purposes of adherence to mitigation requirements and testing protocols.

If you have not yet been vaccinated, CMU is offering free vaccine clinics. Please visit this link to schedule an appointment, which is required. You can also visit Pennsylvania’s vaccine information page to access a list of providers near you.

No. Fully vaccinated staff and faculty members do not have to complete the Daily Self-Assessment. Please note, however, that until documentation is uploaded, staff and faculty members will be considered to be unvaccinated and will be required to complete the daily assessment.

No. Fully vaccinated staff and faculty members do not have to complete weekly Tartan Testing. Please note, however, that until documentation is uploaded, staff and faculty members will be considered to be unvaccinated and will be required to complete weekly Tartan Testing.

Faculty and staff can reach out to their HR business partner or Equal Opportunity Services (EOS) at employeeaccess@andrew.cmu.edu or 412-268-3930.

Vaccination Data and Compliance

University Health Services (UHS) staff will review and verify vaccine information submissions through the secure electronic health record system, HealthConnect. CMU will use this information to determine whether individuals are compliant with the vaccine requirements or the university’s minimum mitigation requirements expected of community members who do not have a verified COVID-19 vaccine record or approved exemption from UHS.

Vaccination data will also be used in aggregate form to help inform our campus posture, as well as plans for booster vaccine clinics if and when they become recommended by public health officials.

CMU is committed to protecting the confidentiality of your vaccination information, and will share it only with those individuals who have valid reasons to access the data solely for the purposes described in the COVID-19 Vaccination Data Collection Privacy Notice (PDF).

Up-to-date records of those who are expected to comply with the university’s mitigation requirements will be available to Student Affairs for students and Human Resources for faculty and staff. If concerns are raised about compliance, Student Affairs will engage directly with a student to assure compliance. Human Resources will engage directly with employees to assure compliance among faculty and staff. Supervisors will be engaged only if the issue cannot be brought to resolution through direct engagement with Human Resources.

CMU is committed to protecting the security of your vaccination data through the use of technologies and procedures, such as technical and organizational security policies and procedures, security controls and employee training. Further information on CMU’s security measures may be found in the COVID-19 Vaccination Data Collection Privacy Notice (PDF).

Individuals who have not received an approved exemption or have not uploaded their vaccination information will receive automated reminders of their obligation to complete the daily self-assessment (DSA), participate in Tartan Testing and wear a facial covering.

Participation in the DSA and Tartan Testing will be monitored and individuals who are not compliant will receive follow up from the university. Human Resources will respond to concerns regarding faculty and staff compliance and Student Affairs will respond to concerns regarding student compliance.

Compliance with the university’s mitigation strategies has been crucial to our success throughout the pandemic and we expect community members will continue to uphold their obligations to protect the community and their own health and safety. The university is committed to an educational approach to assure compliance; however, the university reserves the right to take employment or disciplinary action when warranted.

Authorized Vaccines, Mitigation, Quarantining and Tartan Testing

Currently, there are three vaccines approved or authorized by the FDA in the United States recommended to prevent COVID-19:

Pfizer-BioNTech
According to the FDA, the most common side effects from the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine are pain, redness or swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headache, chills, muscle pain and joint pain. These symptoms typically last a day or two. This FDA fact sheet on the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine (PDF) has more information.

Moderna
The FDA reports that the most commonly reported side effects of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, which typically lasted several days, were pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes in the same arm as the injection, nausea and vomiting and fever. Of note, more people experienced these side effects after the second dose than after the first dose. This FDA fact sheet on the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine (PDF) has more information.

Johnson & Johnson
The most commonly reported side effects of the Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine were pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and nausea. Most of these side effects occurred within one to two days following vaccination and were mild to moderate in severity and lasted one to two days. This FDA fact sheet (updated 4/23/21) on the Johnson & Johnson Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine (PDF) has more information. 

CMU accepts all World Health Organization (WHO)-authorized vaccines, in addition to the FDA-authorized vaccines in the U.S.

As of June 1, 2021, the WHO has listed Pfizer/BioNTech, Astrazeneca-SK Bio, Serum Institute of India, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), Moderna, Sinopharm and Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use.

We continue to consult with internal and external medical experts about the best practices regarding this situation and will provide further information about a possible need for revaccination or booster shots in the near future. We also continue to actively monitor for any additions to the WHO-authorized vaccines and will add these to the list of CMU recognized vaccines as needed.

According to the CDC, you should be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19. Experts do not yet know how long you are protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. Even if you have already recovered from COVID-19, it is possible — although rare — that you could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 again.

Learn more from the CDC about why getting vaccinated is a safer way to build protection than getting infected.

Facial coverings (sufficient to cover the nose and mouth) are required on campus at all times, regardless of vaccination status.

Exceptions include: while eating or drinking, if working outdoors during hot and humid conditions, or when alone in a private space, such as an office, assigned residence hall room or enclosed vehicle. When outdoors, facial coverings are expected to be worn whenever physical distancing of 6 feet or more cannot be maintained. If you cannot wear a facial covering due to a medical condition, please contact either the Office of Disability Resources (students) or HR Disability Services  (employees) to request an exemption.

Exceptions have been made for faculty, staff and students who are actively engaged in in-person curricular music and drama courses/productions, and NCAA sponsored athletic events. However, individuals exercising this option are required to complete the daily self-assessment and participate in weekly Tartan Testing, regardless of vaccination status.

The relaxation of the university’s risk mitigation protocols for fully vaccinated individuals is currently based on the honor system (as it is throughout the Commonwealth). While we fully expect that our community will comply, any concerns about noncompliance may be brought to your supervisor, who will follow up with HR to address.

Students are not required to complete an arrival quarantine before coming to campus for the fall 2021 semester. Those who are not fully vaccinated (two weeks after the final vaccine dose) with a WHO-emergency use listed or U.S.-emergency use authorized vaccine will be required to start the vaccination process as they begin engaging in campus life (e.g. orientation programs, moving into residence halls, coming to class, joining research activities, etc.). Carnegie Mellon offers free vaccine clinics on campus for those needing vaccinations.

While awaiting full vaccination status, students are expected to participate in mitigation activities such as regular Tartan Testing, wearing facial coverings and participating in the Daily Self-Assessment

The CDC reports that when you've been fully vaccinated (received your final vaccine dose at least two weeks ago), you do not have to quarantine if you have been identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 probable or positive individual.

Anyone who is not fully vaccinated who is identified as a close contact with a positive COVID-19 case must stay home. Employees, and students who have receive a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, or have had close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual must inform Community Health and Well-Being at CHWB@andrew.cmu.edu, and follow any applicable self-isolation or quarantine requirements.

Visitors, contractors and other persons who are planning to be on campus and received a positive COVID-19 diagnosis or close contact exposure within 10 days of their time on campus must inform their local supervisor or CMU host. The supervisor or CMU host will inform Community Health and Well-Being at CHWB@andrew.cmu.edu to initiate communication protocols.

If you are fully vaccinated, you do not need to participate in Tartan Testing, the university’s COVID-19 asymptomatic testing program.

All faculty, staff and students coming to campus who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 must participate weekly in Tartan Testing.

Tartan Testing is also available for fully vaccinated CMU community members who desire a weekly test.

No, individuals should not ask about the vaccine status of students, faculty or staff members.