COVID-19 Vaccination FAQs for Employees

Mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinic held in Olson involving may PLU nursing students and staff conducted by the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Dept. with Multicare, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021, at PLU. (PLU Photo/John Froschauer)

Employee Vaccination Policy and General Questions

What is the vaccination policy for PLU employees?

In addition to our previous decision to require COVID-19 vaccinations for all students, we will now require vaccination for faculty and staff as well. Just like with students, exceptions may be made for religions and medical reasons. This requirement is a key component to opening safely and returning to in-person campus activities, consistent with public-health guidelines. The complete employee vaccination policy may be found PLU Employee COVID-19 Vaccination Policy.

Why is PLU requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for employees?

We are requiring the vaccination because the CDC states COVID-19 vaccines are effective at keeping you from getting sick and early data shows that vaccines help keep people with no symptoms from spreading COVID-19, but we are learning more as more people get vaccinated. We know that not everyone will agree with the requirement to be vaccinated.  However, it has become clear that for PLU to return to in person learning this fall, achieve our enrollment goals and serve our students fully, we must do this – and there is flexibility built into the policy with the exemption option.

Vaccinations protect our community. We believe that getting vaccinated is about providing our students with as “normal” a college experience as possible, as we care for other people and our communities, including our neighbors down the street and thousands of miles away. Additionally, mandatory vaccination will allow us to safely reopen all aspects of community life including the PLU on-campus experience. It will allow us to loosen some of the physical-distancing guidelines and activity restrictions and perhaps, in time, eliminate them.

Why did the decision to mandate vaccination come about now?

On May 21, the governor issued a new Healthy Washington Proclamation 20-15.13 requiring employers must obtain proof of vaccination or obtain a self-attestation from each employee, certifying their fully vaccinated status, before the employee may work at a worksite without wearing a mask.

We also learned the same week that the Washington State Department of Health is finalizing guidance for Higher Education which makes it clear that only campuses with a vaccination requirement for students, faculty and staff will be allowed to eliminate physical distancing and other mitigation requirements this summer and fall.

As a result of these two important developments, and in order for PLU to return to anything resembling a normal in-person campus environment this fall, the decision to mandate employee vaccination was made.

Who is eligible to be vaccinated?

Everyone over the age of 12 in the United States is eligible to be vaccinated as of May 12, 2021. Each state has its own vaccine supply and determines its distribution process. You can find Pierce County’s mass vaccine event registration website at FindYourCovidShot.com, which is updated as events are added.

When do employees need to be fully vaccinated by?

In order to begin the fall semester, we are requiring all employees to have received all recommended doses of their vaccine for COVID-19 and to complete their certification/attestation before the start of the academic year. This will allow sufficient time to reach fully-vaccinated status.

What does it mean to be “fully” vaccinated?

Public-health officials consider an individual to be fully vaccinated two weeks after their final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, so the dates vary depending on the vaccine.)

How do I prove I have been vaccinated?

If you are fully vaccinated, you can access the attestation here. If you are not yet fully vaccinated, bookmark this page and/or check the COVID-19 site for access to the form when you do achieve that status, so you can update the information.

Will there be any exemptions to the vaccination requirement?

There are two permitted exemptions to PLU’s vaccination requirement:

Medical: A medical exemption will be made for employees for whom receiving the COVID-19 vaccination is medically inadvisable. Employees must provide a statement, signed by a physician,which states that in the physician’s opinion, the vaccination required would be injurious to the employee’s health and well-being.

Religious: Employees must provide a written, signed waiver stating that they decline the vaccination for religious beliefs, including right of conscience.

Do I need to vaccine attest if I responded to the staff and faculty vaccine survey in April/May? If so, where can I do that?

Yes, even if you responded to our previous volunteer vaccination status form we need you to attest through this process as well. If you are fully vaccinated, you can access the attestation here. If you are not yet fully vaccinated, please bookmark this page and/or check the COVID-19 site for access to the form when you do achieve that status, so you can update the information.

How do I schedule a vaccination appointment?

Vaccinations are readily available throughout Pierce County and Western Washington. You can use this tool to locate your closest vaccine appointment in Washington.

Who on campus will know if I’ve been vaccinated or not?

To ensure that we can all be confident in our individual and collective safety, department heads will be provided with a list of individuals who are permitted to work without facial coverings or physical-distancing requirements. This information will be continuously updated as employees complete the attestation.

Do I need to be vaccinated if I have already had COVID-19?

Yes. Anyone who previously had COVID-19 will still be required to be vaccinated.

Vaccination can begin once you are recovered from symptomatic COVID or once you leave isolation after asymptomatic infection or quarantine after exposure. At this time, the CDC recommendation for those who were treated with monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma is to defer vaccination for at least 90 days. If this applies to you, medical documentation should be submitted with a request for temporary exemption.

What will the restrictions be on campus for folks who have not been fully vaccinated?

Campus community members (employees and students) who are not fully vaccinated are expected to wear masks and physically distance in all indoor spaces. While PLU’s adherence to state and local guidelines will likely mean that physical distancing will not be required this fall,  it is expected that unvaccinated individuals and those requesting an exemption will be required to wear a mask on campus for the entire 2021-22 academic year.

Exempt employees will be expected to continue complying with the following mitigation measures:

Masking in all indoor and large group settings/group setting of more than 5 individuals.;

Quarantine for 10-14 days if exposed to a positive COVID case identified as a close contact.

 Quarantine after return from travel out of state (QTQT).

It’s possible that CDC and public health recommendations may allow us to loosen some of these requirements by September. Please pay attention to PLU communications over the coming months.

What happens if I don’t have an exemption and I refuse to be vaccinated?

If you have not attested to your fully vaccinated status and have not requested an exemption, you will be assumed to be unvaccinated and subject to all current restrictions.

Are there any current exceptions to fully vaccinated (and vaccine attested) employees being able to be maskless on campus?

Yes, even employees who have attested to your fully vaccinated status are required to wear a mask in the following campus spaces through Summer Session Term I (June 7 – July 2):

  • All indoor teaching and learning spaces, e.g., classrooms, meeting rooms, the library, studios, and labs (in line with Washington’s updated mask guidance for schools)
  • The Commons, 208, and all dining facilities, except while consuming food or drink
  • The PLU Health Center
  • All visitors to indoor spaces on campus

Vaccinated Lutes can go without masks in all other spaces.

Any additional employee vaccination incentives I should know about?

Yes! To thank those who are fully vaccinated for the care they have shown for our community in taking that step, we will utilize a small amount of the federal relief monies to fund a cash prize to those attesting to their fully vaccinated status. Once a week, for ten weeks, one name will be randomly selected from the list of fully vaccinated employees and awarded $250. Drawings will take place each Wednesday, beginning June 9 and ending on August 4. Each recipient will also be allowed to designate a student club, organization or scholarship fund of their choosing to receive an additional $250.

Winners can’t win more than once; once in the pool, you’re in for the duration of the drawings; the sooner you enter the more chances you have to win!

Submit your vaccination verification

Information about the vaccine

Which vaccines are authorized in the United States?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized three vaccines for emergency use to prevent COVID-19. These vaccines are Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Jansen/Johnson & Johnson. In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) placed Astrazeneca-SK Bio and Serum Institute of India vaccines on their Emergency Use Listing; these vaccines will be accepted for employees arriving from outside the United States.

Key things to know:

COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.

COVID-19 vaccination is an important tool to help stop the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 vaccination helps protect people from getting sick or severely ill with COVID-19, including variants.

To receive the most protection, people should receive all recommended doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Effectiveness rates (according to Yale Medicine):

Pfizer — 95% efficacy in preventing COVID-19 in those without prior infection. The researchers report that the vaccine was equally effective across a variety of different types of people and variables, including age, gender, race, ethnicity, and body mass index (BMI)—or presence of other medical conditions. In clinical trials, the vaccine was 100% effective at preventing severe disease.

Moderna — 94.1% effective at preventing symptomatic infection in people with no evidence of previous COVID-19 infection.

Johnson & Johnson — 72% overall efficacy and 86% efficacy against severe disease in the U.S.

Note: Pfizer and Moderna have begun the process for full approval.

For more information, click Key Things to Know About COVID-19 Vaccines on the CDC webpage.

If I'm pregnant or considering pregnancy, can I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Here are links to the CDC and the Harvard Health Blog that should help answer your pregnancy-related questions about the vaccine.

What is the complete list of ingredients currently utilized in the various vaccines?

Do the COVID-19 vaccines contain aborted fetal cells or traces of human DNA?

The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any aborted fetal cells or human DNA. The J&J vaccine was developed from fetal retinal cells, but these are destroyed or washed out of the final vaccine product. mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. They do not affect or interact with our DNA in any way. mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept. The cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished using the “instructions” the mRNA provides.

Social Implications

How are people of color expected to mend the divide with healthcare professionals from past trauma?

We acknowledge and hold the harm and accompanying generational trauma that crimes like the Tuskegee Study have created, and recognize the ongoing mistrust that is rooted in those generational experiences. That said, we have not experienced a global pandemic like this before. Addressing a challenge of this size, scope, and impact requires the involvement, expertise, and wisdom of all communities, including those who have been directly affected by present and historical inequities.What is hopeful and different about this vaccination effort is that many people of color have been directly involved in the development of and ongoing research and decisions related to the administration of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Unlike Tuskegee, Black scientists had a major role in the development of both vaccines.

Two examples: Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, who self-identifies as an African American woman, is praised as a key scientist behind the development of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. James E. K. Hildreth is a Black immunologist who serves on the FDA committee that authorized both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s shots for emergency use in the U.S.: “Tuskegee was horrible,” he says. “This is nothing like Tuskegee, because we [Black scientists] have been involved at every level of developing the vaccine from the beginning. The scientists who were involved in creating it to the ones involved in approving it, we’ve been involved at every level, at all phases.”

Additionally, all three vaccines purposefully included diverse panels of clinical participants, chosen by race, age, gender, and other salient identities. COVID-19 is affecting everyone in the U.S., so the organizers of clinical trials sought to ensure that their participants reflected that fact. The FDA authorized all three of the present vaccines to be used in the United States. The FDA regulates almost everything in the U.S. food and drug supply. Individuals do have the right to utilize two forms of exemption – medical and religious/right of conscience.

Did PLU take into account the marginalized communities when making the decision to mandate the vaccine?

Yes, our decision was framed by national and regional data about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 that marginalized communities are experiencing, as well as the loss of family members that Lute members of our community have directly experienced. Additionally, we have been consulting leaders and resources from PLU’s partner organizations in the local community that serve marginalized communities directly, e.g., the Asia Pacific Cultural Center in Tacoma, Puyallup Tribe/Puyallup Tribal Health Authority, the Tacoma Urban League, Tacoma Community House, and others, and have followed their lead. Many of these partners have been leaders in local vaccination efforts. (Our neighboring tribal communities have been outpacing broader public vaccine distribution. For example,the Puyallup Tribe of Indians has been doing some fantastic work.) Earlier this year, we also formed a partnership with the Tacoma–Pierce County Health Department’s Equity Access Network to host clinics that serve BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and rural communities, in order to offset disparities in health outcomes.

As a person/member of a community of color, should I have concerns about the rapid development and authorization to vaccinate people with a non-FDA-approved vaccine?

Some communities, particularly communities of color, may have historical reasons to doubt the healthcare system. But these communities have also been among the hardest hit by this pandemic, and like all of us, have a lot to gain from vaccination.

If you still have doubts about the vaccine, we recommend this short video produced by the Black Women’s Health Imperative. The Black Women’s Health Imperative is a national organization dedicated to improving the health and wellness of Black women and girls.

Transmission

Can COVID-19 still be spread from a person who is fully vaccinated?

Research to date indicates that viral load is significantly reduced by vaccination and that, because of that, asymptomatic transmission is much less likely. However, until we have more information about the degree of transmission, it will be important to continue masking and physical distancing in certain situations.

Do the various variants increase transmission among vaccinated individuals?

Research to date suggests that the current U.S.-based vaccines are effective against the variants that have emerged up to this point.

Why are healthy employees who are not at higher risk expected to receive the vaccine if transmission is not reduced by it?

Transmission is reduced by vaccination. As older and more vulnerable people have been vaccinated,the virus has moved on to younger groups of people. The group now most likely to experience severe symptoms and be hospitalized is the age group that includes otherwise healthy college students.

Effectiveness and immunity

How long do the vaccines remain effective against COVID-19?

Current research suggests that immunity lasts for at least six months and possibly up to a year. This body of research also suggests that annual booster doses of vaccine will probably be needed.

Why are people who already had COVID-19 expected to receive a vaccine?

People should get vaccinated, regardless of whether they have already had COVID-19. That’s because experts do not yet know how long people are protected from getting sick again after recovering from COVID-19. The current view is that natural infection provides about 90 days of immunity. However, even if someone has already recovered from COVID-19, it is possible that beyond those 90 days, they could be infected with the virus again. Learn more from the CDC about why getting vaccinated is a safer way to build protection than getting infected.

Will people be required to receive a booster shot in the future?

Current research indicates that annual boosters against COVID-19 will likely be required.

Effects

What are all the potential side effects of the vaccines—reparable and irreparable, short-, medium-,and long-term?

Immediate, short-lived side effects are common with all the COVID-19 vaccines. These include soreness at the injection site, low-grade fever, sore muscles, and general fatigue, usually lasting no more than one to three days. The second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines can trigger a slightly more significant effect, but that is also short-lived. Medium- and long-term side effects to these vaccines are not known at this time, but scientists have been studying vaccines and monitoring their side effects for several decades. The occurrence of long-term side effects is extremely rare and is the reason we continue to use long-standing vaccines like those for MMR and polio. A better comparison for the COVID-19 vaccines might be made to the annual flu shot, which is developed on an annual basis depending on the most common flu virus circulating that year. The flu vaccine is developed and approved quickly,and has an excellent safety record.

What are the long-term effects of vaccines (one/two years after administration), especially considering the new mRNA technology?

We don’t have the answers to this question yet, because these are the first FDA-authorized mRNA vaccines. However, mRNA vaccines have been in development for 30 years, which is what allowed the relatively rapid development of effective vaccines specific to COVID-19. For a more detailed explanation, read this article from Harvard Medical School.

Are severe side effects such as blood clots common or expected?

The FDA amended the emergency-use authorization of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine to include information about a very rare and serious type of blood clot that can occur in people who receive the vaccine. See the FDA’s Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Testing

Can we attest that all the medical parameters concerning studies and tests have been adequately satisfied?

Yes, the vaccines would not have received emergency-use authorization if this were not the case. Vaccine research is a long-standing body of research, and the development of these vaccines was based on a strong foundation of prior research and understanding of how vaccines work against viruses. mRNA vaccines have been held to the same rigorous safety and effectiveness standards as all other types of vaccines in the United States. The only COVID-19 vaccines the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) will make available for use in the United States (by approval or emergency-use authorization) are those that meet these standards.

Ingredients

What is the complete list of ingredients currently utilized in the various vaccines?

Do the COVID-19 vaccines contain aborted fetal cells or traces of human DNA?

The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any aborted fetal cells or human DNA. The J&J vaccine was developed from fetal retinal cells, but these are destroyed or washed out of the final vaccine product. mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. They do not affect or interact with our DNA in any way. mRNAnever enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept. The cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished using the “instructions” the mRNA provides.

Planning

What was the rationale behind mandating a vaccine when there are still so many unanswered questions about it?

Over 500,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. alone. Tens of thousands of new coronavirus cases continue to emerge on college campuses. A New York Times survey of more than 1,800 American colleges and universities—including every four-year public institution and every private college that competes in NCAA sports—has revealed more than 397,000 cases since the pandemic began.

Were any alternative options explored instead of a mandatory vaccine?

Yes, we evaluated what it would take to continue extensive mitigation measures on campus and their impact on students, staff, and faculty. However, it was clear that if we returned to campus without mandatory vaccination for all of our campus community members, it would not be feasible to continue delivering those measures at the scale required.

Are vaccinated employees still required to wear masks and socially distance on campus?

Though some details are still being worked out (and are subject to change), if a PLU employee is fully vaccinated they may return to their worksite without wearing a mask and will be allowed to eliminate physical distancing and other mitigation requirements this summer and fall.

Reporting

Where and how should a person report a vaccine-related injury?

They should report the injury to and through their medical provider, who would share that information with local public-health authorities and the CDC. There is also an efficient way to report side effects directly to the CDC through the V-Safe reporting system.

Will an individual be compensated for any vaccine-related injuries?

The Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP) is a federal program that may help pay for costs of medical care and other specific expenses of certain people who have been seriously injured by certain medicines or vaccines, including this vaccine. Generally, a claim must be submitted to theCICP within one (1) year from the date of receiving the vaccine in question. To learn more about this program, visit www.hrsa.gov/cicp/ or call 1-855-266-2427.