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Vaccination FAQ

Updated May 19, 2021

In April 2021, Caltech updated its vaccination policy for all undergraduate and graduate students to include the COVID-19 vaccine. The Institute now requires:

  • all undergraduates who choose to live in Caltech's on-campus residences this summer to submit proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 no later than June 1, 2021. Students who exercise the personal declination option for the COVID-19 vaccine will not be allowed access to our residences.
  • all undergraduate and graduate students who enroll in Caltech's academic program for the 2021-22 Academic Year to submit proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or submit a Statement of Declination no later than August 15, 2021. Students will have the option to decline vaccination for personal reasons by submitting the declination as long as the vaccines are distributed only under Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, once the FDA approves at least one COVID-19 vaccine, Caltech will require immunization against COVID-19, with exemptions for medical contraindications only. 

In May 2021, the Institute announced that once the FDA approves the COVID-19 vaccines, it will require faculty, staff, and postdoctoral scholars who are employed at campus or one of Caltech's offsite observatories to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. For campus affiliates and visiting researchers who regularly access Institute facilities and work closely with Caltech employees, proof of full vaccination will be a condition of access to campus.

When fully in effect, the vaccination requirement will allow for medical and religious exemptions for employees. Individuals with an approved exemption, however, may be subject to regular testing or other preventative measures necessary to protect the health and well-being of the community.

A vaccination cannot give you COVID-19, since none of the authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines or COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19.

The vaccines may have some side effects, including soreness in the arm that receives the injection as well as fever, chills, tiredness, or headache. These side effects are normal signs that your body is building protection against the virus, and should go away after a few days. You should call a doctor if you appear to be having a severe allergic reaction after receiving the vaccine. More information about potential side effects can be found on the CDC's website.

We encourage all members of the community to familiarize themselves with facts about the COVID-19 vaccines. In addition, more information about vaccines in general can be found on the Caltech Science Exchange.

As of June 1, 2021, fully vaccinated employees who have been working remotely are allowed to return to onsite work locations, subject to discussion with and approval of their manager and supervisor. Human Resources also must verify that an individual's vaccination status has been confirmed through the COVID-19 Vaccination Documentation application.

Beginning June 1, 2021, members of the Caltech community who have been fully vaccinated and have submitted proof of their vaccination status to the Institute through the COVID-19 Vaccination Documentation application are no longer required to participate in the surveillance testing program.

Individuals who have not submitted proof of their fully vaccinated status are still required to participate in surveillance testing if and when they are on campus.

All Caltech employees and students who are ready to submit proof of their vaccination status should access the COVID-19 Vaccination Documentation application, which is accessible with access.caltech credential. Individuals should follow the directions and prompts for students or staff, faculty, postdocs, or campus affiliates.

According to the CDC, common side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine can include fever, chills, and nausea. If you are experiencing these symptoms within 48 hours of receiving a dose of the vaccine, you DO NOT need to make a report via the COVID-19 Reporting Application UNLESS you have either been exposed to someone who has COVID-19 or your symptoms feel too severe for you to report to work.

If you are too sick to report to work after receiving the vaccine, you will be referred to the Disability & Leave Administration Unit (DLAU) for assistance with timekeeping.

According to the CDC, people are considered fully vaccinated:

  • Two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
  • Two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine

If it has been less than two weeks since your one-dose shot, or if you still need to get your second dose of a two-dose vaccine, you are not fully protected. Keep taking all prevention steps until you are fully vaccinated.

At this time, members of the community are encouraged to seek access to all available vaccine appointments through the myturn.ca.gov website. Caltech will continue to assess the community's need and ability to access vaccines as we move forward. If you have questions about accessing a particular vaccine or your personal situation, please consult with staff at Student Wellness Services by emailing covid19@caltech.edu with your question.

Once you have submitted your documentation (either through the secure COVID-19 Vaccination Documentation application for staff, faculty, postdoctoral scholars, and affiliates; or through the Student Wellness Services Student Health Portal for undergraduate and graduate students), most individuals will receive an email from SWS with their QR code within 24 hours. However, depending on the volume of documentation SWS receives during a given week, it may take up to five business days to receive the QR code.

If more than five business days have gone by without receiving your QR code, please email covid19@caltech.edu for assistance.

If you have a physical vaccination card, you can either scan or take a photo of the card and then upload it. Accepted file types are JPEG, JPG, PDF, and PNG. Maximum filesize is 10 MB. If you have trouble uploading, check the extension on your file as well as the size.

If you have a digital documentation of vaccination instead (for example, in your smartphone's wallet), the file itself will not be uploadable, but you can take a screenshot of the wallet and upload that.

No. If you have received your QR code from SWS, you are permitted to access campus without going through surveillance testing. You may still receive a few reminder emails as the system is updated; you can now ignore these.

When you receive the email with your QR code, it may be helpful to take a screenshot of it with your smartphone, and then present that image when it is requested.

Yes. All individuals age 12 years or older are now eligible to be vaccinated.

Yes. All individuals age 12 years or older are now eligible to be vaccinated.

Vaccination appointments are available through state and county, resources, as well as via private healthcare providers and many local pharmacies, including several CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Vons, Pavilions, Albertsons, Costco, and Ralphs locations.

Caltech is prepared to accept immunization records for all vaccines recognized by local public health officials, in accordance with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Presently this includes vaccines authorized for use by the World Health Organization. Students may send a secure message to Student Wellness Services through the Student Health Portal for consultation on their specific circumstances.

International students or scholars who have questions about their vaccination status or what vaccines are recognized by Caltech may send a secure message to Student Wellness Services through the Student Health Portal for consultation on their specific circumstances.