Carnegie Mellon University

COVID-19 Updates

Information and resources for the CMU community

Scotty with mask: Tartans All In everywhere


Last Updated: 4/9/21

Importance, Safety and Eligibility 

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, stopping a pandemic requires using all the tools available. 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. Addressing COVID-19 through a health equity lens is just as critical for the next phase of the response: vaccine distribution.

Together, COVID-19 vaccination and following the CDC's recommendations to protect yourself and others will 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.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Emergency Use Authorizations for COVID-19 vaccines that 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 are ensuring the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in the United States.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health's goal is to ensure every Pennsylvanian who wants a vaccine can be vaccinated. At the advisement of the CDC, Pennsylvania is prioritizing the order in which individuals are vaccinated to ensure those that are in most critical need are vaccinated first in accordance with recommendations of the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.  

Currently, Pennsylvania is in Phase 1B of its vaccine rollout. All people living in Pennsylvania age 16 and older will be eligible to schedule a vaccine starting April 19, 2021.

View Pennsylvania's latest Vaccine Rollout Timeline.

CMU — Giant Eagle Partnership

As part of a new partnership with Giant Eagle, all CMU faculty, staff, vendors and students who are eligible for phase 1A of vaccine distribution or are PreK-12th grade education workers will be provided an opportunity to secure a dedicated appointment at Giant Eagle’s Heinz Field Clinic location.

All CMU community members will receive an emailed invitation to complete a survey to assess eligibility. Once you submit the completed survey, should your eligibility match current phasing, you will receive an individualized follow-up email confirming details of your vaccination appointment and time.

Survey results about demand and eligibility within the CMU community will impact how quickly Giant Eagle can offer vaccine appointments.

Eligibility is based on the state's current guidelines. Your eligibility will be determined by answers provided in the emailed survey. 

The Heinz Field COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic is open to individuals who meet the current eligibility requirements as defined by state and local health officials as well as teachers and school staff including any Pre-K to 12 school employees, contractors or independent consultants that typically interact with students in a school setting during the regular school day, including teachers, classroom support staff, early childhood education professionals employed by the school entity, school administrators, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, school nurses, speech/occupational therapists, custodians and other school employees.

Through our partnership with Giant Eagle, we can accommodate all members of our community eligible in Phase 1A as part of this Heinz Field opportunity.

Based on the most recent distribution, Giant Eagle will likely be administering the Pfizer vaccine. This is a two-dose vaccine that will require you to return to Heinz Field 21 days later for your second dose. Your follow-up appointment will be scheduled before you leave the stadium.

CMU is not requiring our community members to provide medical documentation of underlying health conditions. The survey is a a self-declaration with no need for specifics. CMU does not keep records of the medical conditions the CDC identifies as putting people at increased risk for COVID-19.

Please be sure to bring proof of identity (ex: driver’s license or government ID) or teaching or school staff occupation (ex: school district issued badge or state/professional teacher’s license) (a printed copy would be preferred). 

Also, print and complete the Pennsylvania Immunization Administration Record (PDF) and bring it with you. If you cannot complete it prior to your appointment, forms will be available upon entry into the stadium. 

Please also bring your insurance card including Medicare Part B, Pharmacy or Medical Coverage cards (a printed copy would be preferred).

It is highly encouraged and preferred that you keep your determined appointment time if at all possible, as we cannot offer the ability to reschedule with Giant Eagle at this time. We suggest asking supervisors/professors for accommodations.

If you absolutely cannot keep your appointment at the assigned time, please contact the CMU COVID-19 Vaccine team at

There will be no charge for the vaccine. However, you will be asked to provide your health insurance information as part of your appointment.

You must wear a facial covering and adhere to social distancing at the stadium before, during and after the vaccination.

Authorized Vaccines, Continued Mitigation and Quarantining

Currently, there are three vaccines authorized and recommended to prevent COVID-19:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine
  • Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine
  • Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine

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.

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.

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 on the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine (PDF) has more information.

According to the CDC, yes. Due to the severe health risks associated with COVID-19 and the fact that reinfection with COVID-19 is possible, you should be vaccinated regardless of whether you already had COVID-19 infection. If you were treated for COVID-19 symptoms with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma, you should wait 90 days before getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure what treatments you received or if you have more questions about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Experts do not yet know how long someone is protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The immunity someone gains from having an infection, called “natural immunity,” varies from person to person.  It is rare for someone who has had COVID-19 to get infected again. It also is uncommon for people who do get COVID-19 again to get it within 90 days of when they recovered from their first infection. We won’t know how long immunity produced by vaccination lasts until we have more data on how well the vaccines work.

Both natural immunity and vaccine-induced immunity are important aspects of COVID-19 that experts are working to learn more about, and CDC will keep the public informed as new evidence becomes available.

Yes. The CDC recommends that people continue to wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth when in contact with others outside their household. Although the COVID-19 vaccine appears to provide significant protection, there remains some chance that you could still acquire the illness and infect others. Until the pandemic is significantly suppressed, facial coverings will be needed.

We all share a responsibility to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and ask that you still follow these important mitigation behaviors: 

  • Self-Assess Daily: Complete your self-assessment survey every morning before beginning your day.
  • Keep 6 Feet Apart: Maintain at least 6 feet (2 meters) between you and others.
  • Wear a Facial Covering: Everyone on campus must wear a facial covering.
  • Wash Your Hands: Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.

The CDC reported 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.

However, CMU is asking those who have been vaccinated and are a close contact of a COVID-19 probable or positive individual to report to Community Health and Well-Being (CHWB) so that CHWB is aware of the situation and can assess if you may still need to quarantine.

More Information

Yes. We still do not have enough data or guidance from the CDC to inform us when we should relax our mitigation protocols, including Tartan Testing. Clinical trials of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines found that both do a good job preventing symptomatic COVID-19 disease, however, the trials did not measure whether a person who is vaccinated is less likely to spread the virus to someone else. A vaccinated person may have replicating virus in their nose and throat even if they are protected from becoming sick.

The CDC recommends that fully vaccinated individuals should still follow guidance from their employer, including participating in COVID-19 testing programs at their workplaces.

Additionally, you should still continue to practice good mitigation behaviors including self-assessing daily, keeping six feet apart, wearing a facial covering and washing your hands.

At this point, the COVID-19 vaccine is still under Emergency Use Authorization so there is currently not enough information available to address this question.