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8/20/2021 - To Graduate Students: Caltech's COVID-19 Vaccination Policies

To: Caltech Graduate Students

From: David C. Chan
Dean of Graduate Studies


In April, Caltech announced a policy requiring COVID-19 vaccination for students, with an option for students to submit a declination form for personal reasons until at least one vaccine is granted full FDA approval. On August 16, the Institute updated its vaccine policy. The new policy, which supersedes the previously communicated requirement, stipulates that all students, faculty, staff, and postdoctoral researchers must confirm their full vaccination status or have an approved exemption no later than October 15, 2021. This requirement is independent of full FDA approval for any vaccine. 

The decision to implement this updated policy in advance of full FDA approval reflects the increased risks associated with the aggressive spread of the Delta variant, and reinforces our collective responsibility to protect the health and well-being of everyone in our community, especially those who are otherwise not able to be protected. Research and extensive clinical experience have demonstrated that the COVID-19 vaccines are among the most effective means of controlling the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and limiting the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death. 

The purpose of this letter is to share with our graduate student community the relevant processes and deadlines associated with the Institute's COVID-19 vaccination policies.

  • As a condition of your enrollment in Caltech's graduate program for the 2021-22 Academic Year, you were required to submit proof of vaccination or request a medical exception or a personal declination through the Student Health Portal by August 15, 2021. If you have not done so, you may lose your ability to enroll for the fall term. To remain enrolled, you need to act immediately and fulfill this requirement through the Student Health Portal.
  • If you submitted a personal declination form, you now must provide proof of full vaccination by October 15, 2021, or submit a Vaccine Exemption Form and receive approval for an exemption. Students who fail to fulfill this requirement may be dropped from fall-term classes and lose their ability to remain enrolled at Caltech.
  • If you are a newly arriving international graduate student and you have not had access to the COVID-19 vaccine in your home country, you may be eligible for a limited exception to comply with the Institute's vaccine requirement. To be eligible for an exception, you must inform Student Wellness Services through the Student Health Portal by September 1, 2021. SWS will provide assistance in making vaccine appointments and undergoing the vaccination process upon your arrival in Pasadena. You will need to quarantine and submit to COVID-19 testing before moving into your permanent housing assignment.

While vaccination remains a vitally important mechanism for controlling the spread of  SARS-CoV-2 and limiting the risk of severe illness, surveillance testing and rigorous health and hygiene practices are also critical to community health and safety. More information about testing and health and hygiene policies for students will be communicated over the course of the coming weeks.