Vaccines for COVID-19
Last updated: 9/24/21
Importance, Safety, Eligibility and Distribution
Why is it so important to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
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.
Visit the CMU Vaccine page to learn more.
Are COVID-19 vaccines safe?
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:
- Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine (U.S. approved: Learn more)
- Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine (U.S. emergency use authorized)
- Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine (U.S. emergency use authorized)
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.
What about the safety of the J&J vaccine?
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."
Am I eligible for a vaccine?
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.
Are international students eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine?
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.
What are the benefits of getting a COVID-19 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.
Why should college students get vaccinated?
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.
Does the university recommend that I participate in antibody testing?
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.
Should I be revaccinated with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine if I have already been vaccinated with another WHO-approved vaccine?
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.
Should I be vaccinated after having COVID-19?
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.
Will CMU be providing COVID-19 booster shots?
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
Who is required to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
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.
Which CMU locations are included in this requirement?
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.
Which vaccines are approved for this requirement?
CMU accepts all World Health Organization (WHO)-authorized vaccines, in addition to the FDA-approved or authorized vaccines in the U.S.
Will I be required to show I’m fully vaccinated?
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.
How should I proceed with uploading my documentation if I am partially vaccinated?
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.
Will I receive confirmation that the image of my COVID-19 vaccine card was uploaded correctly and received?
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.
What if I’ve lost or misplaced my vaccine documentation?
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 email@example.com 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.
As a student, can I request an exemption/waiver from immunization requirements?
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.
As a faculty or staff member, can I request an exemption/waiver from immunization requirements?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-268-3930.
How are enrolled students defined at CMU?
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
What are the vaccination and/or revaccination guidelines for both domestic and international students?
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.
What testing requirements are in place for vaccinated and unvaccinated students this fall?
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.
Why is CMU now requiring faculty and staff to be vaccinated?
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.
Do faculty and staff not yet on campus need to get vaccinated and upload documentation?
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.
Where can faculty and staff get a COVID-19 vaccine?
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.
Do faculty and staff have to complete the Daily Self-Assessment if fully vaccinated?
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.
Do faculty and staff have to participate in weekly Tartan Testing if fully vaccinated?
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.
Who can faculty and staff contact with questions or concerns?
Vaccination Data and Compliance
How will my data be used?
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.
Who will have access to my vaccination registration data?
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.
How does CMU keep my vaccination data secure?
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).
How will the university monitor compliance with the vaccine requirements?
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.
What are the consequences of non-compliance with the university’s vaccination requirements?
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.