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Frequently asked questions

FAQ: COVID-19 Vaccines

Effective September 27, 2021, the University of Rochester will require all faculty and staff to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. All students are already required to be vaccinated. Getting vaccinated is easy, safe, and it aligns with our University values. Find answers to questions about requirements, along with information about how and why to get vaccinated.

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Faculty and staff: COVID-19 vaccine requirements

On August 26, the University announced that all faculty and staff are required to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. Below you will find answers to questions about timing, how to get vaccinated, how to report and update your vaccination status, and why getting vaccinated is so important.

Yes. On August 26, University of Rochester leadership announced that all employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19. This policy is effective Monday, September 27, 2021, at 5 p.m. and applies to all faculty and staff at the University of Rochester and the University of Rochester Medical Center, including healthcare system employees as defined by NYS Department of Health (NYSDOH). Exemptions will be considered per University guidelines and consistent with NYSDOH guidance. This requirement reflects the University’s ongoing commitment to the health and safety of every member of our community, which is our top priority. Students at the University are already required to be vaccinated.

Read the full update that University and Medical Center leadership shared with faculty and staff related to requirements for healthcare workers.

Faculty and staff must have received at least one dose of the two-dose vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna) or have received the single Johnson & Johnson dose by 5 p.m. on September 27, 2021. Employees who receive their first dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines must receive the second dose within the recommended interval. The University will verify that the second dose has been received. Those who are already vaccinated and have already submitted proof of vaccination do not need to take any further action at this time.

This requirement to be vaccinated supersedes all previously communicated deadlines regarding vaccination reporting and testing for unvaccinated employees, including the most recent one from August 2, 2021. Employees are still required to complete the Vaccination Status Form by 5 p.m. on Monday, September 27, 2021 in order to confirm they have received a vaccine as part of the vaccine mandate.

The University is committed to the health and safety of every member of our community. As a research and healthcare institution, we have experienced first-hand the terrible impact that COVID-19 has had on our community and have also been at the forefront of the discovery and testing of several of the now-approved vaccines.

Our epidemiologists, public health experts, and scientists have stressed the effectiveness and safety of COVID vaccines, and now that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for individuals 16 and over (with full approval of the Moderna vaccine anticipated shortly), we believe it is in the best interests of the health and safety of our entire university community to ensure that faculty and staff join with our students, who are already required to be vaccinated.

This important step to getting vaccinated also aligns with our Meliora and ICARE values. Our obligations are not just to ourselves, but to our patients, students, colleagues, friends, and families, and to the Rochester region more broadly, and to ensure that we can continue to learn, discover, heal, and create in a University community that is supportive, healthy, and safe.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines:

The COVID pandemic has claimed more than 600,000 American lives in the past 18 months alone. In comparison, the CDC estimates 34,200 deaths due to flu during the 2018–2019 influenza season. Our epidemiologists, public health experts, and scientists have stressed the effectiveness and safety of COVID vaccines. Now that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for individuals 16 and older (with full approval of the Moderna vaccine anticipated shortly), we believe this decision is in the best interests of the health and safety of our entire University community.

Because the University is collecting health information in the context of an employer-employee relationship rather than a physician-patient relationship, HIPAA does not apply. Once collected, however, the information will be treated as confidential medical information under the Equal Employment Opportunity laws and disclosed only as needed for business purposes.

Under the University’s Time Off to Receive a COVID-19 Vaccine (Policy #329), employees can receive up to four hours of paid time off from work to receive the vaccine (including third shots and boosters) without having to use their existing PTO, sick time, or vacation. In addition, the University provides a paid vaccine day to full-time and part-time employees experiencing severe side effects after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.

The deadline for the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine is within the recommended interval of the first dose, which must be by 5 p.m. on September 27, 2021. Individuals who are not fully vaccinated after September 27, 2021 will be required to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing until they are fully vaccinated.

At this time, the University is requiring all faculty and staff to receive the vaccination unless granted an exemption through the University’s exemption process. Testing is not an option for those who are not eligible for medical or religious exemption.

Reasonable accommodations may be available for individuals who are granted an exemption from vaccination due to religious or medical reasons, as outlined in the University’s COVID-19 Vaccine Policy (#165) and COVID-19 Healthcare Provider Vaccination Policy (#164). Employees who wish to receive an exemption must submit an exemption request form, which will be available online at https://tools.mc.rochester.edu/covid-vaccination-status/login on Tuesday September 7, 2021.

Employees who are approved for an exemption will be subject to weekly testing and daily completion of Dr. ChatBot. Additional information about testing protocols and testing sites can be found at the University’s COVID-19 Resource Center. Exemptions requested based on personal preference will not be approved.

Employees who wish to receive an exemption must submit an exemption request form, which will be available online through the following link, by 5 p.m. on September 27, 2021. The form will be available at https://tools.mc.rochester.edu/covid-vaccination-status/login on Tuesday, September 7, 2021.

We sincerely hope that all of our employees will choose to be vaccinated as soon as possible, for the safety of themselves and others. If you choose to leave the University and later get vaccinated, we invite you to re-apply for a position.

An employee currently on leave would need to meet the requirement of either the New York State or University vaccine mandate before being able to return to work. This would include submitting confirmation of at least one dose of a vaccine or an approved medical/religious exemption.

The policy applies to all active faculty and staff, regardless of work location, including those who are working in a hybrid model or remotely. The policies for exemptions are currently under development and once final will be shared broadly with more detail.

The University’s COVID-19 Healthcare Provider Vaccination Policy (#164) applies generally to healthcare workers and others covered by the state vaccination mandate who work, study, or otherwise engage in activities at the University of Rochester Medical Center. The University’s COVID-19 Vaccine Policy (#165) applies to all other University employees, including those working both on-site and remotely.

Updated 9/3
Unfortunately, failure to comply with the University’s policy will be considered a voluntary resignation. The impact of that resignation on accumulated paid time off pay-out will be handled consistent with our Paid Time Off Policy (#340); healthcare benefits will continue through the completion of the pay period that the voluntary resignation is effective.

Yes. Just as private employers can require vaccines for the measles, flu and other diseases, they can require coronavirus vaccines. In general, both public and private entities have well-established legal authority to implement vaccination requirements. And as is the case with other University vaccination requirements, there are options for individuals to request exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

All COVID-19 vaccines are free and getting vaccinated is easy. The Finger Lakes COVID-19 Vaccine Hub has information on where vaccines are available across the region. In addition, the Strong Memorial Hospital Outpatient Pharmacy is offering free, walk-in Pfizer vaccines Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. The University provides up to four hours of paid time off for vaccine appointments, and one day of paid time off after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines for employees who may experience side effects. Full information can be found at the University’s COVID-19 Resource Center or the URMC COVID-19 site (URMC login required).

Getting vaccinated is your best option against getting COVID and becoming very ill from it. So get vaccinated, and if you experience side effects after a single dose of Johnson and Johnson, a second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or a booster shot, and are unable to work, the University provides 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. Salaried and hourly paid exempt employees may use sick time. Read about the COVID-19 Vaccine Sick Day program.

Yes, because we need to know that your status has changed to vaccinated and that you are in compliance with the University’s vaccine mandate policy. Please use the same Vaccination Status Form to upload the new information.

COVID-19 vaccines that will qualify under this policy are listed below (as of Aug. 26, 2021):

Full U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval

  • Pfizer/BioNTech (2 dose)

FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) 

  • Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (1 dose)
  • Moderna (2 dose)

World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Use Listing (EUL) 

While the actual proof of vaccination will be collected by Human Resources after an offer is extended and accepted, managers are expected to inform individuals of the University and/or state vaccine mandate in their initial screening of candidates. Suggested language could include:

To begin work, all University employees must have received either the single Johnson & Johnson dose by 5 p.m. September 27 or at least one dose of the two-dose vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna) by 5 p.m. September 27, 2021 with a second dose planned within the recommended interval.

Candidates also should be informed that exemptions may be available on a limited basis, as outlined in the University’s COVID-19 Vaccine Policy (#165) and COVID-19 Healthcare Provider Vaccination Policy (#164). Evaluation of a medical or religious accommodation would take place as part of the pre-employment process.

All contractors’ employing agency/company are charged with ensuring compliance with the vaccine mandate either by confirming vaccination or tracking a negative COVID-19 test result every 7 days while assigned to work at the University, if eligible for an exemption.

For immunocompromised third doses, UR Medicine has opened a clinic at Manhattan Square Park to provide third-doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to eligible patients. No doctor’s note or documentation is required, but those receiving shots will need to attest that they meet at least one of the CDC criteria.

We understand that this is a challenging time for our faculty, staff, and their families. The University offers many programs and services to help during these times. Resources are available for stress, relationship issues, drug/alcohol dependency, and a variety of other challenges through our Employee Assistance Program.

Students: COVID-19 vaccine requirements

The following FAQ outlines many of the details of University’s student vaccination requirement for academic year 2021-22. This information will be added to, as well as updated as the conditions of the pandemic change and new guidance may be issued.

You can also reference this guide shared with students via email.

The University of Rochester is requiring all students—undergraduate and graduate—who plan to be on any campus for the 2021-22 academic year, to be vaccinated against COVID-19. University students, living both on-campus and off-campus, were expected to have received both doses of a two-dose vaccine, or the single dose of a one-dose vaccine, by Aug. 1, 2021.

The University’s “campus” includes but is not limited to:

  • practicum and internship sites
  • research locations
  • study abroad sites
  • any other place where students are engaged in the pursuit of their degrees.

The only exceptions to the vaccine requirement are those who are granted medical or religious exemptions, students who are in 100 percent online accredited programs (not individual classes), and international students who are unable to get WHO-approved vaccines by the deadline.

Requiring students to be vaccinated is the best public health approach to limiting or eliminating the spread of COVID-19 at the University, and is the most comprehensive and manageable way to safely return to more normal University operations, instruction, activities, and student living.

Yes. All efforts will be made to provide the vaccine to students who arrive to campus—or who are already on campus—and have not yet been vaccinated. If a student has only received one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna two-dose vaccine upon arrival to Rochester, there are multiple options at Rochester-area pharmacies to receive the second dose. Here are two options nearby River Campus:

  • CVS on Mount Hope Avenue in College Town offers Pfizer 2nd dose
  • Walgreens at 1575 Mount Hope Avenue offers Moderna 2nd dose

Students seeking a second dose should bring with them the proof of their first dose/vaccination card.

Right now, it is not expected that unvaccinated students will need to quarantine, but may be required to wear a face mask (see the University’s Current Face Mask Guidelines page for the latest information), keep social distancing or follow other preventive measures.

Students can take advantage of several options now that COVID-19 vaccine supplies have increased. UHS has been able to offer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to students right on campus, and plans to offer more vaccination opportunities in the future; the University of Rochester Medical Center continues to offer vaccine appointments to students; and many pharmacies and county COVID clinics now have an abundance of doses available, with some locations no longer requiring an appointment. See the Finger Lakes Vaccine Hub for these locations.

Yes. To ensure people receive both doses of COVID-19 vaccine, federal guidance now allows pharmacies participating in the federal vaccine distribution program to provide second doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to any eligible individual, including those who received their first dose from another provider/location. This means, for example, that college students who received their first dose on campus can get their second dose while home on summer break. See the full list of participating pharmacies.

We encourage all students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 at their earliest opportunity. The University will require COVID-19 vaccines for all students on campus starting August 1, 2021. The University will follow New York State and CDC guidance for COVID-19 vaccines, and will recognize students as fully vaccinated who have received vaccines approved for emergency use by the CDC, which currently includes the vaccines listed on the World Health Organization (WHO) emergency use list (click on button: Status of COVID-19 Vaccines within WHO EUL/PQ evaluation process). University leaders are continuing to monitor relevant guidance and will update requirements as new information becomes available.

We encourage all students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 at their earliest opportunity, and if international students have been vaccinated with an approved vaccine, then they are all set. The University will recognize students as being fully vaccinated when they have received a vaccine approved for emergency use by the CDC, which currently includes the vaccines listed on the World Health Organization (WHO) emergency use list (click on button: Status of COVID-19 Vaccines within WHO EUL/PQ evaluation process). If a student has received a vaccine that is not approved, then the University is prepared to offer an approved vaccine to them upon arrival to campus. If a student has only received one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna two-dose vaccine upon arrival to Rochester, there are multiple options at Rochester-area pharmacies to receive the second dose. Here are two options nearby River Campus:

  • CVS on Mount Hope Avenue in College Town offers Pfizer 2nd dose
  • Walgreens at 1575 Mount Hope Avenue offers Moderna 2nd dose

Students seeking a second dose should bring with them the proof of their first dose/vaccination card.

Yes, as noted in the announcement, students may request a medical or religious exemption. Exemption requests must be approved by UHS.

Students claiming a medical exemption will need to submit to UHS a letter from a physician describing the medical condition. Of note, the only medical contraindications listed by the FDA are allergy to the COVID vaccine itself, or proven allergy to a component of the COVID vaccine.

Students claiming a religious exemption will need to submit a statement to UHS stating that they have a sincere and genuine religious belief that prevents them from being vaccinated. Additional documentation may be required by UHS depending on the circumstances.

If an exemption is approved, it is important to note that that students who have chosen not to vaccinate will be required to maintain the same level of health and safety protocols that have been in place throughout the duration of the 2020-21 academic year, including wearing a face mask and practicing social distancing, as well as any others that may be recommended or required by New York State and the CDC. For additional information and to speak to a professional within University Health Service about your concerns, please feel free to contact them directly.

Starting August 16, any student who is not vaccinated and not received an exemption, or who doesn’t intend to be vaccinated upon arrival, will have their classes removed from their schedule, and a registration hold will be placed on the student record until the student completes the vaccination requirements.

This action will also need to be taken for students who may be fully vaccinated, but who have not uploaded proof of this vaccination through the UHSConnect portal.

August 31 is the deadline to request 100 percent reimbursement from the Bursar’s Office.

The University is not preparing remote learning options for students who are not vaccinated. Generally, status as an unvaccinated individual does not entitle a person to an accommodation of this nature.

Students should upload their COVID-19 vaccination proof through University Health Service’s secure portal, UHSConnect (find instructions here). Once uploaded, students can use a new app developed by University IT to show proof of their vaccination status. Similar to the way that students present proof of their Dr. Chat Bot completion by showing University officials a “checkmark” screen, the new UR COVID-19 Vaccine Status app allows students to show vaccination status to enter University events, activities, or campus spaces. Learn more about the app and how it works.

All submitted proofs (copies/images of vaccination cards) will be kept in the student health record system, maintained by UHS.

Yes. It is not unlike other vaccinations that students are required to have that help prevent a dangerous outbreak of a contagious illness among students on a campus. This COVID-19 vaccination requirement is only different due to the fact that the vaccine is still under Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA. The University does not believe that the EUA laws prevent it from requiring students to have the vaccine to be on campus. It is important to recognize that , all of the vaccines available in the U.S have been subject to extensive clinical trials—including trials conducted right here at the University of Rochester Medical Center—involving tens of thousands of study participants to determine their safety and effectiveness. And as is the case with all University vaccination requirements, there are options for students to request religious and medical exemptions from the COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

No. There is no cost for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Even students who have had COVID must be vaccinated. This is guidance from the CDC.

Announcement link for reference.

In the rare circumstances that a high COVID-19 transmission rate is observed in a particular residence hall or campus living space, University health officials may make the decision to temporarily relocate unvaccinated students from the site of the uptick, for their own protection and to minimize further spread.

Unvaccinated students will need to continue to wear a face mask and follow infection prevention protocols for the protection of their own health. This decision also balances the safety of the general public and the medical and religious needs of individuals.

See the University’s Current Face Mask Guidelines page for the latest face mask requirements for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

The facts about COVID-19 vaccines

Find answers to common questions below.

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 (CDC)

Our epidemiologists, public health experts, and scientists have stressed the effectiveness and safety of COVID vaccines. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has been fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which have been granted emergency use authorization by the FDA, are safe and provide near complete protection from serious illness and death.

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 about the science and safety of COVID-19 vaccines:

No. 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 three 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.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is also approved by the FDA, only requires one injection. You do not need to schedule a second dose of this vaccine.

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