Carnegie Mellon University

COVID-19 Updates

Information and resources for the CMU community

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Last updated: 3/4/21

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of vaccines to protect against COVID-19. Carnegie Mellon leadership is committed to providing vaccinations to our community to protect the health and well-being of all community members and to lessen the burden on local agencies.

University Health Services (UHS) leadership has secured access to vaccines for the university’s Phase 1A eligible employees from UHS, EMS, Tartan Testing and custodial services members who support these functions and faculty involved in healthcare research that carry some risk of exposure to the virus. Vaccine distribution for these individuals is currently underway through local healthcare partners.

CMU is actively pursuing approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Health to be authorized as a Closed Point of Dispensing (POD) to provide vaccines to members of the campus community. A POD is a non-medical site that has been pre-planned to be used for Mass Antibiotic Dispensing or Mass Vaccination.

We will follow all state guidelines in prioritizing who is vaccinated and in what order.

The following planning for vaccine administration is underway:

  • CMU is registered as a POD with the Allegheny County Health Department.
  • If activated, CMU's POD will manage cold chain (a temperature-controlled supply chain of vaccines), staffing, strict infection control, reporting doses, public messaging, etc. UHS has registered as a vaccine provider and will submit vaccine data to the Pennsylvania Data Bank.
  • Enterprise Risk Management and Community Health and Well-Being have developed an Incident Action Plan to ensure preparedness and coordination if CMU is selected as a POD.

Vaccine FAQs 

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.

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.  

If and when CMU is granted authorization to deliver vaccinations, we will be guided by the phasing priorities set by Pennsylvania and further refined by the Allegheny Health Department.

Check to see if you are eligible, find out when it's your turn and view Pennsylvania's Vaccine Rollout Plan phases.

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

  • Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine
  • Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine
  • 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 Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine were pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and nausea. Most of these side effects occurred within 1-2 days following vaccination and were mild to moderate in severity and lasted 1-2 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.

Consistent with PA Department of Health guidance for fully vaccinated individuals, you do not have to quarantine if you have been identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 probable or positive individual but have received your final vaccine dose at least two weeks ago and within the past 90 days.

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.

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.

Vaccine Resources