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Coronavirus Vaccination

Information for the University community

Updated April 22, 2021

Find answers to common COVID-19 questions, including a general vaccine overview and FAQs specifically for University employees and students.

COVID-19 vaccine overview

In addition to protecting your own health, you’ll be protecting your loved ones and helping the community. If many people decline the vaccine, the virus will still be able to spread widely. We need to vaccinate a large percentage of the population to achieve herd immunity and stop the pandemic. The alternative—widespread immunity developed because of widespread infection—means many deaths and a much longer-lasting pandemic.

Read about all the benefits of getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Three COVID-19 vaccines are currently approved by the FDA, all of which are safe and provide near complete protection from serious illness and death.

Note: As of April 13, the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine has been paused until further notice and cannot be administered in the U.S.

The clinical trials for coronavirus vaccines included tens of thousands of study participants from the U.S., including those in our region, and from around the world. URMC researchers tested both the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the AstraZeneca/University of Oxford vaccine. Read more about how the world made enormous progress on a COVID-19 vaccine so fast.

Once a vaccine is approved for use, the FDA and CDC have many safety monitoring systems in place to watch for possible side effects as vaccines are distributed to the wider population.

Our medical and public health experts urge you to get any vaccine that is available to you; that is the best way to protect yourself, your loved ones, and our community.

Learn more

Yes, if you decide you don’t want the vaccine now, you will have the ability to get the vaccine in the future.

Getting a coronavirus vaccine will not give you COVID-19. None of the vaccines currently being developed and tested in the U.S. use the live virus that causes COVID-19; they use other methods to stimulate our bodies to recognize and fight the virus. Learn about how COVID-19 vaccines work.

Coronavirus vaccines are designed to teach our immune systems to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. This process can cause symptoms, such as fever, in some individuals. This is common and a sign that the body is building immunity. Learn about how COVID-19 vaccines work. Clinical trials reported no serious side effects requiring hospitalization. Some trial participants noted fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pain, chills, and occasionally a low-grade fever.

As with any vaccine, an allergic reaction is possible but rare. If you know you have severe allergic reactions, you should make sure you receive the vaccine in medical setting where reactions can be quickly and effectively treated.

We don’t know for sure. We believe it will last for at least several months, but it is too soon to know whether the COVID-19 vaccine will need to be an annual shot, like the flu vaccine, and, if it is, whether the same vaccine will work every year. What is known is that it takes 2 weeks after being vaccinated to be fully protected against the COVID-19 virus.

Two of the vaccines currently approved by the FDA—the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines—require two shots. Both shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are needed to ensure the best immune system response. You’ll generally get the shots 21 to 28 days apart. You do need to receive the same vaccine for your first and second doses.

Yes, you should continue to wear a mask, wash your hands often, and stay at least six feet away from others after you’ve been vaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “There is not enough information currently available to say if or when CDC will stop recommending that people wear masks and avoid close contact with others to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before making that decision. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision.”

University community members who have been vaccinated should read this guidance for safety requirements on our campuses.

Employee-specific FAQs

The University is following the vaccination guidelines as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and State of New York. You can learn more about eligibility and distribution phases on URMC’s website.

UPDATE: URMC is able to offer the COVID-19 vaccination to certain University of Rochester and UR Medicine faculty, staff, and students. Visit our Vaccine Distribution page for more details and for the latest updates.

You can check your eligibility at: COVID-19 Vaccine: Phased Distribution of the Vaccine ( Additional information is available on the Finger Lakes COVID-19 Vaccine Hub regarding your options at this time.

No, but it is highly recommended that you do.

As with the flu vaccination, you may experience arm pain after your first COVID-19 shot. Some may experience fever. If so, just like any other time you have a fever, you should not come to work and should let your health care provider know.

And as predicted by the vaccine clinical trials, we are seeing a larger percentage of faculty and staff taking a sick day after receiving the second dose due to predicted side effects. To help those who experience side effects and are unable to work after receiving their second dose, the University is providing a one-time paid vaccine day to all non-exempt, hourly-paid part-time and full-time staff who have paid time off (PTO) or sick banks. Sick time for exempt faculty and staff is not affected by this change and exempt employees will use sick time as they typically would.

Student-specific FAQs

New 4/22 The University of Rochester will require all undergraduate and graduate students who plan to enroll and be on campus for the 2021-22 academic year to be vaccinated against COVID-19. See more details.

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