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Vaccination FAQ

Updated July 20, 2022


While the original two-shot vaccination regimens (or one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine) offered a high degree of protection against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, this immunity has been shown to wane over time. Additionally, emerging research shows that these vaccination regimens are less effective against more recent strains of the virus, including Delta and Omicron. The addition of a booster dose is shown to reduce rates of hospitalization and death associated with infections from all variants of the virus.

Amid a surge in cases locally and national, the Institute is requiring a booster to help safeguard the health and safety of the campus community.

All employees who are currently eligible to receive a booster dose have until January 31, 2022, to provide proof of having done so. Employees who are not eligible by January 31 will have up to 30 days after the date on which they become eligible to provide proof of having received their booster.

Students who are currently eligible to receive a booster dose had until January 15, 2022, to provide proof of having done so. After that, students also will have 30 days from the date on which they became eligible to provide proof of having received their booster.

No. Unvaccinated individuals with previously approved medical or religious exemptions may retain their exemptions from the booster requirement. However, they are required to continue to participate in the Institute's surveillance testing program.

There are a number of ways to obtain your COVID-19 vaccine booster. You may contact your healthcare provider, your primary care physician, or a local pharmacy for more information. To find local providers of booster shots, you can visit https://myturn.ca.gov/ or http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/acd/ncorona2019/vaccine/hcwsignup/

Everyone age 12 or older who completed their initial vaccine series at least five months ago for the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccine series, or two months ago for the single-dose J&J vaccine is eligible for a booster shot.

Pursuant to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, those who have been fully vaccinated outside of the U.S. with a vaccine approved under the World Health Organization Emergency Use Listing (WHO EUL) are eligible for a single booster shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at least five months after full vaccination.

To determine your eligibility, please see Los Angeles County Public Health's COVID-19 vaccine eligibility chart.

If you are a Caltech employee and you are not eligible for a booster shot by the Institute's deadline of January 31, 2022, please upload your vaccine document and two dose dates. We ask that you receive the booster as soon as you are eligible and upload proof of your booster.

If you are a Caltech student and you are not eligible for a booster shot by the Institute's deadline of January 15, 2022, please contact covid19@caltech.edu.

Caltech will also accept digital vaccination records. To obtain a digital copy of your vaccination, visit the California Department of Public Health's Digital Vaccine Record website at https://myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov/.

If you received your vaccinations outside of California and do not have a copy of your vaccination record, please email covid19@caltech.edu.

Your submission will be reviewed within 7 to 14 working days. You will be contacted if there are any questions regarding your submission. Please note you will not receive a confirmation email or QR Code. Thank you for uploading your documentation.

Individuals 12 and older who received a WHO-approved vaccine in their home country are eligible to receive a Pfizer booster shot in the United States five months after their second dose.

Outside contractors and consultants are to check with their manager or supervisor on whether the requirement applies to you, and how to provide proof if necessary.

Yes, boosters will be required for all eligible employees. However, public health does not recommend that you seek a booster until at least two weeks have passed since your most recent infection.

Please update your current vaccination status in the Caltech Health Portal by January 31, 2022, and contact Employee and Organizational Development (eod@caltech.edu) with any questions specific to your circumstance.

When you submit your proof of booster vaccination to the health portal, the following information needs to be visible: Your name, the date you received your booster, and the type of booster you received. Your submission should ideally show all three doses you received and the dates you received them.

If the card shows your name, the date you received your booster, and the type of booster you received, it will be accepted. However, if you have your original card showing your first two doses, please submit an image of that as well.

If your booster dose was documented on the back of your original vaccine card, please submit images of both sides of your card to the portal.

Some vaccine providers have been filling out the booster portion of the card in ways that do not provide sufficient documentation to show that you received your booster (e.g. the type of vaccine was not written down).

If your booster information was written on the back of your card, please submit images showing both sides of your card.

If your card is missing a piece of required information, you will need to obtain alternative documentation of your booster status.

There are two ways you can do this: 1.) You may contact your vaccine provider or your health care provider to obtain a record of your booster vaccination or 2.) You may obtain a state of California Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record by visiting: https://myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov/

If you received your vaccination out of state, and need additional proof of booster, please obtain a record from the appropriate agency, or contact covid19@caltech.edu.


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.)

As of December 17, this requirement also includes that students and employees receive a booster shot. Students must submit documentation of their booster no later than January 15, 2022, or within 30 days of becoming eligible to receive one. Employees must submit documentation of their booster no later than January 31, 2022, or within 30 days of becoming eligible to receive one.

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

Fully vaccinated is currently defined as two weeks after the final dose of the vaccine received.  This date is either two weeks after the individual has received the second dose of one of the FDA approved two-dose vaccines, or two weeks after receiving an FDA approved single-dose vaccine. [This definition may be subject to revision as recommended by health authorities.]

Caltech also now requires that students and employees receive a COVID-19 booster shot.

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.

Yes. There are two (2) exemptions available to eligibleemployees: a medical and/or disability exemption and a religious exemption. Employees were required to obtain an approved exemption by November 26, 2021.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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. 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.

International Students and Scholars

Yes, Caltech will, consistent with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Pasadena Public Health guidance, accept proof of full vaccination with any international vaccine that has been authorized for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO) through the Emergency Use Listing (EUL) process.  More information can be found the WHO and CDC websites.

There are very limited exceptions to the current requirement for nonimmigrants (international students and scholars) to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with a World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Use Listed vaccine.  If you qualify for an exemption and are able to enter the United States, there may be a requirement for you to be vaccinated in the United States, if you intend to stay in the country for more than 60 days. 

All nonimmigrants traveling to the United States by air are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19; there are limited exceptions. For more information, see the Current Travel Guidance on the International Offices' website.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains a current list of accepted COVID-19 vaccines, including Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson/Janssen, AstraZeneca, Covaxin, Covishield, BIBP/Sinopharm, and Sinovac.

With regards to Caltech authorization, questions about vaccination status or what vaccines are recognized by Caltech, international students may send a secure message to Student Wellness Services through the Student Health Portal and international scholars should send an email to covid19@caltech.edu for consultation on their specific circumstances. 

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. Effective July 18, the Institute has resumed its pre-pandemic access policies for campus buildings. That means that most buildings are open without the need for keycard access during normal business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday). As was the case before the pandemic, some specific areas within buildings may still require special keycard access authorization. Additionally, access to campus libraries will continue to require a keycard for the time being. Some doors in high-traffic areas, may also require keycard access. If you are unable to access an area of campus where you are authorized to be, contact campus security.

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