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Vaccination FAQ

Updated October 14, 2021


Caltech announced on August 16 that the Institute will mandate full COVID-19 vaccination for employees (faculty, staff, postdoctoral researchers) and students and will restrict access to indoor campus spaces to individuals with proof of full vaccination status or approved exemptions only. (Individuals who are under the age of 12 and not eligible for a vaccine are exempt from this requirement and will not be asked for documentation.)

The Institute's new vaccination policies require that all employees and students on campus and at off-site facilities, apart from JPL, confirm their full vaccination status, or have an approved exemption, no later than October 15, 2021.

This requirement also extends to all employees who work fully off-site or have a hybrid working arrangement, and supplants previous communications.

Yes. On July 6, 2021, the Office of Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a memorandum opining that private businesses and public entities are not prohibited from mandating COVID-19 vaccines that have only received approval for use under an EUA. The memorandum, "Whether Section 564 of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act Prohibits Entities from Requiring the Use of a Vaccine Subject to an Emergency Use Authorization," helps settle any remaining legal debate and affirms that employers may lawfully require employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

Caltech's vaccination policies require that all employees and students have documented their full vaccination status or received an approved exemption by October 15. Employees and students who have not complied with this requirement may be subject to disciplinary action.

Yes. There are two (2) exemptions available to eligible employees: a medical and/or disability exemption and a religious exemption.

If you are not yet fully vaccinated and would like to request an approved exemption, you should contact Disability and Leave at leaveunit@caltech.edu to discuss a medical exemption or Employee and Organizational Development at eod@caltech.edu to discuss a religious exemption.

Yes. Caltech students may be eligible for a medical exemption.

Students can submit an exemption request form and should direct any additional questions to Student Wellness Services by sending a secure message through the Student Health Portal.

Only employees may request an exemption from the COVID-19 vaccination due to religious reasons. The process begins by submitting a Religious Exemption Request Form available through the Employment and Organizational Development (EOD) unit at eod@caltech.edu. The request will be reviewed by EOD and the employee requesting this exemption will be formally notified of their approval or denial via a written notification.

Caltech is required by law to offer reasonable accommodations to employees who qualify for an exception to the vaccination requirement based on their medical condition or disability, as well as to employees who object to vaccination based on their sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance.

Consistent with the Institute's existing immunization policy, students are eligible for medical exemptions.

The request begins by submitting a Medical and/or Disability Exemption Request Form available from the Leave and Disability Administration unit (DLAU) at leaveunit@caltech.edu. The request will be reviewed by this unit and the employee submitting this request will be formally notified of their approval or denial via a written notification.

Nonetheless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that getting a COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy can protect you from severe illness from COVID-19. If you are pregnant and considering whether or not to get vaccinated, talk to your medical provider.

Objections to the vaccination requirement based on either personal philosophy or inconvenience are not grounds for an exemption.

Although antibodies from natural infection may provide some protection against the virus, evidence shows nothing protects against COVID-19 better than vaccines. The Institute's policy requires that even those individuals who previously had COVID-19 be fully vaccinated or have an approved exemption.

Caltech will monitor guidance from infectious disease experts; however, it is anticipated that annual or more frequent boosters may be necessary, and receipt of boosters may be required. Booster requirements will honor any exemptions approved for the initial vaccine requirement.

Yes. An approved remote work agreement does not serve as an exemption to the vaccination requirement.

Yes. While Caltech prioritizes confidentiality of medical information, it is important to understand that vaccination status is not protected HIPAA information. Vaccination documentation, including exemption forms and medical records, will be kept confidential. Vaccination status may be shared with officials who have a legitimate need to know this information.

Generally, determining who has a legitimate need to know will rest with administrators and Institute officials for the purposes of planning and ensuring the community's health and safety.

No. Knowledge about an employee's vaccination status is limited to those at the Institute who have a legitimate need to know.

While colleagues can inquire about one another's vaccination status, employees are only obligated to respond to a question about vaccination status when the individual asking the question has a legitimate need to know the answer.

Please keep in mind that inquiries about why someone is not vaccinated are prohibited by law.

Yes, if the vaccine is authorized by the World Health Organization (WHO). A document summarizing the status of a wide range of international vaccines can be found online on the WHO website.

Caltech will, consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Pasadena Public Health guidance, accept proof of full vaccination with any international vaccine that has been authorized for emergency use by WHO through the Emergency Use Listing (EUL) process.

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.

Vaccination is not required for entry into the United States; however, individuals who are not fully vaccinated must adhere to local travel quarantine/testing requirements set forth by public health.

Campus Access

Generally, members of the Caltech community who have confirmed their vaccination status, or who have an approved exemption on file and are following safety protocols for employees with an exemption—including participating in the required surveillance testing program—will be free to move around campus as they normally would. These individuals may use their keycard to access academic and administrative buildings where they have pre-assigned access, and may request keycard access to buildings from the relevant building manager when sustained or regular access is needed. Access to public spaces and facilities, such as Chandler and the Red Door, will remain open to all individuals on campus.

However, individuals who are dining at the Athenaeum, using athletic or recreational facilities, or attending a campus event or game that may be accessible to external guests and visitors may be asked to provide proof of their vaccination status with a picture ID. Campus community members, including individuals with an approved exemption, may present their Caltech Vaccination Documentation Verification QR code for entry.

External community members who can verbally attest to a medical condition that prevents them from being fully vaccinated, may be allowed to participate with proof of a negative COVID viral test taken within the previous 72 hours. Please consult with the venue or hosting organization, however, on accepted documentation before arriving.

Campus community members may contact Caltech security at security.supervisor@caltech.edu or at 626-395-4701 if they are experience problems accessing a building for one-time use.

Continued, regular keycard access to a building may be requested of the respective building manager.

Yes. Any individual who is accessing indoor spaces or facilities on campus must comply with the Institute's vaccination policy by providing proof of their full vaccination status, or if they have an exemption as allowable by law, proof of a negative COVID viral test from within 72 hours.

Both forms of documentation are acceptable at time of entry, and should not be requested or stored by Caltech in advance.

For regular contractors and subcontractors, Caltech encourages that the Institute's vaccination requirements be included in the signed contract, thereby setting the expectation and requirement that all individuals accessing campus for the purpose of executing work under that contract shall comply with the Institute's vaccination requirements.

Acceptable proof of vaccination status includes a photo identification with any one of the following:

  • CDC COVID-19 vaccination record card (white card)
  • World Health Organization (WHO) vaccine record card (yellow card)
  • California Department of Public Health (CDPH) COVID-19 digital vaccination record
  • Other COVID-19 digital vaccination record issued by an approved company
  • Documentation of vaccination from the healthcare provider or entity that provided the COVID-19 vaccines
  • California Immunization Registry (CAIR2) vaccination record
  • Caltech Vaccination Documentation Verification QR code (internal community members only)

The vaccination proof should include the person's name, type of COVID-19 vaccine, and the date of the doses administered. The person can show the vaccination card, a photo of the card as a separate document, or a photo of the card stored on a phone or electronic device.

Caltech employees are not expected to collect or validate medical documentation for any guest, visitor, or contractor to campus. Rather, any individual who verbally attests to having a medical condition that prevents them from being fully vaccinated, must provide proof of a negative COVID viral test.

Acceptable proof of a negative test includes a photo identification with testing results that must include the person's name, type of COVID-19 test performed, and negative COVID viral test result. The date when the COVID-19 viral test was taken must be within the 72 hours prior to the event. The test results can be a printed copy or on a phone, including an email or text message results from the test provider or laboratory.

Staff and Faculty Consultation Center (SFCC) personnel provide support to individuals and large and small groups at the Institute during periods of crisis and offer educational opportunities to support the overall health of the Institute and its employees.

Consultations with the SFCC are confidential, and information discussed with a counselor is not shared without permission, in keeping with state and federal laws.

Employees can also contact Employee and Organizational Development at eod@caltech.edu for employment-related questions or concerns.

Student Wellness Services has a range of services that can help support students' transitions back to on-campus living and learning. Students can schedule an initial counseling appointment by calling 626-395-8331. More information can be found at wellness.caltech.edu