COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is Shenandoah requiring everyone in the university community to be vaccinated?
We recognize that some in our community are hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine because, to date, the vaccines have only received emergency use authorization from the FDA (rather than full approval). Therefore, Shenandoah is not — at this time — requiring all faculty, staff and students to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
SU is requiring that individuals within certain groups — those who have high levels of contact with others at the university or pose a greater risk to our community — be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by August 1 for Fall 2021, or have at least the first dose by June 1 for groups that will be in person this summer (with full vaccination following as soon as practicable), unless they have an SU-approved medical or religious exemption.
Once the COVID-19 vaccines have full FDA approval, which could be as soon as this fall, we expect to require vaccination of all students, faculty and staff.
Are some institutions requiring the COVID-19 vaccine?
Many Virginia institutions like Bridgewater College, Hampton University, Hollins University, Mary Baldwin University, Marymount University, Randolph-Macon College, Union Presbyterian Seminary and Virginia Wesleyan University are requiring 100% of their students and employees to receive the vaccine. Hundreds of other colleges and universities across the country are also requiring the COVID-19 vaccine.
Which groups are required to be vaccinated and what is the rationale?
The following groups are required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine due to their high-contact personal interactions, their ability to cause major spread on their campus and in the general population if exposed and, in some cases, their interactions with vulnerable populations:
- All students living in university housing
- President, vice presidents, and deans
- All students, coaches and staff involved in both university-sponsored (NCAA) athletics and intramural sports activities
- All students, faculty and staff involved in any music, theatre, dance or other group practice, rehearsal, ensemble or performance, whether for a class, a co-curricular activity, or a public event (this includes SCAA staff and teachers)
- All nursing/pharmacy/health professions/music therapy students, faculty and staff who a) are in-person for teaching, studying or clinical rotations or b) interact in-person with individuals in (a)
- All students doing in-person student-teaching
- All Department of Public Safety (DPS) employees
- Anyone working/volunteering in SU’s Childcare Center
- Anyone working in/with student housing
- All employees working in person at the Wilkins Wellness Center and Counseling Center
- Any student, faculty or staff member traveling on university-sponsored or university-supported group or individual travel
- All students who are serving as Hornet Ambassadors, Orientation Leaders, Resident Advisors or FYS Mentors
- Anyone who regularly works with visitors, including Brandt Student Center (BSC) Info Desk employees, BSC staff, Student Financial Services staff, and all Admissions employees
- All food services employees
- All students participating in university-sponsored internships and select volunteer opportunities
How can anyone be required to receive a vaccine that is experimental?
The COVID-19 vaccines are not experimental — they have received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). All the COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized for emergency use meet rigorous standards for safety and efficacy as outlined by the FDA. The EUA statute does not restrict employers or universities in any manner; it simply addresses the actions of federal officials.
Employees of SU are generally “at will” meaning they can be terminated for any reason that is not explicitly illegal; similarly, SU is free to condition attendance (and admission) for students on any basis that is not explicitly illegal. In fact, the Virginia Attorney General recently issued an advisory position in which he concluded that Virginia public institutions (which are more restricted than Virginia private institutions) may condition in-person attendance on receipt of an approved COVID-19 vaccine.
The COVID-19 vaccines were developed efficiently through increased collaboration, use of newer technology, and funding due to the severity of the global pandemic. The EUAs were based on data from clinical trials including tens of thousands of people — as comprehensive as the data generally submitted for fully approved vaccines. The data supporting their use is also extremely strong, indicating that the mRNA vaccines are more than 90% effective. Not only did the clinical trials not raise safety concerns, but now with tens of millions of doses given in what is probably the most closely observed vaccination effort in U.S. history, the vaccine’s safety record is extremely good.
What happens if I decide not to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
If you do not fall into one of the identified groups, you are not required to get one of the COVID-19 vaccines at this time. The university is likely to revise its policy and to require all students, faculty and staff to get the vaccine when there is full FDA approval.
If those who are required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine now aren’t fully compliant by August 1, they will no longer be eligible to work or study in person at SU (unless they have a SU-approved medical or religious exemption).
If I do not fall into one of the above groups, should I still get vaccinated now, even if I am not scared of getting the virus?
Yes, you should get vaccinated now. The more people who become vaccinated, the less the virus has a chance of spreading through a population and also mutating. When more people are vaccinated, we can consider relaxing some of our restrictions on wearing masks, social distancing and surveillance testing.
How do I request a medical or religious exemption?
The process to request an exemption for both students and employees requires submitting a form that can be found on the SU website.
What will Shenandoah consider to be a medical exemption to the COVID-19 vaccine?
Each request will be evaluated individually but, generally speaking, the following will be considered:
- History of previous serious allergic reaction, or documented allergy testing to indicate an immediate hypersensitivity reaction, to the vaccine or a component of the vaccine
- Written certification from your primary care physician that the COVID-19 vaccine may be detrimental to your health, indicating the specific nature and probable duration of the medical condition or circumstance that contradicts immunization
If I receive a medical or religious exemption, how will that impact my participation in on-campus activities?
You will be subject to weekly surveillance testing. The university also reserves the right to impose further restrictions based on public health considerations.
I’m in an identified group that has high levels of contact with others. When do I need to be fully vaccinated?
For groups that will be in person this summer, they must have at least the first dose by June 1 (with full vaccination following as soon as practicable). All other groups must be fully vaccinated by August 1.
If you do not fall into one of the identified groups, you are not required to get one of the COVID-19 vaccines until they have full FDA approval.
What if I’m not able to receive my COVID-19 vaccine in time (to be in compliance)?
For identified groups that will be in person this summer, they must have at least the first dose by June 1 with full vaccination following as soon as possible. All other groups must be fully vaccinated by August 1.
Please plan accordingly because, depending on the type of vaccine, the process can take as long as six weeks (four weeks between doses followed by two weeks after the final dose) before you are considered to be fully vaccinated.
Shenandoah encourages individuals to discuss the vaccination process with their primary care physician. Based on current CDC guidance and to ensure you can provide the information required for verification by August 1, you should plan to receive your first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine no later than June 14, 2021, or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by July 11, 2021. For those who need to receive other vaccinations in addition to the COVID-19 vaccine, keep in mind that any other vaccination must be administered either 14 days before the COVID-19 vaccine or 14 days after the COVID-19 vaccine.
Can I choose to work remotely or take all-online classes in lieu of getting a COVID-19 vaccine?
Although Shenandoah will offer some online classes this summer and fall, and may be able to provide limited remote options for some employees, the university will return its primary focus to in-person operations this fall. Accordingly, most students and employees will need to be in person for some or all of their work or class experiences.
Is it legal for Shenandoah to require students to get the COVID-19 vaccine? Employees?
The Office of the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia issued an opinion statement April 26, 2021 that “colleges and universities may take steps to protect the health and welfare of their students by conditioning attendance in various activities or settings on the receipt of an approved COVID-19 vaccine” and noted that no federal law prohibits Virginia universities from imposing such a requirement.
The EEOC recently issued guidance indicating that employers may require their employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine in furtherance of employers’ responsibility to ensure “an individual does not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of individuals in the workplace,” provided these employers comply with federal antidiscrimination laws.
I had COVID-19 recently, so do I still need to be vaccinated?
Previously testing positive for COVID-19 is not considered a medical exemption to the university’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement. As long as you are not symptomatic and have been medically cleared by your primary care physician after having COVID-19, you are able to get vaccinated. If you do not fall into one of Shenandoah’s required identified groups, you do not need to get one of the COVID-19 vaccines until they have full FDA approval.
Will the COVID-19 vaccine be offered on campus?
Is the COVID-19 vaccine the only immunization that Shenandoah requires?
No. As is true every semester, all students are required to have medical insurance, and incoming students are required to get a physical examination, and provide proof of specific immunizations on a completed health form that has to be filed at the Wilkins Wellness Center prior to registration (if enrolled in 7 credit hours or more). Students admitted to the School of Nursing, School of Pharmacy, School of Health Professions (Physician Assistant Studies, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Athletic Training) in addition to the Music Therapy program must provide on an annual basis evidence of specific immunizations prior to the applicable date set forth on the Health and Insurance Requirements for Health Professions Students form.
Can I ask colleagues or students whether they have been vaccinated?
You can ask. There is no federal or state privacy law that prevents you from doing so. You want to be careful, however, about follow-up questions that may elicit information about personal medical conditions or a disability (e.g., “Why haven’t you gotten the vaccine?”).
Is it safe for me to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I am pregnant, breastfeeding, or would like to have a baby in the future?
Shenandoah encourages individuals to discuss this question and other personal health concerns with their primary care physician. The CDC says it is safe, and that there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination causes any problems with pregnancy.
Will a COVID-19 vaccine alter my DNA?
Shenandoah encourages individuals to discuss this question and other personal health concerns with their primary care physician. The CDC says no, COVID-19 vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way.
Can a COVID-19 vaccine make me sick with COVID-19?
No. According to the CDC, that is a myth 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. (This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.)
What does it mean to be fully vaccinated?
The CDC states that individuals are considered fully vaccinated 14 days after they receive their final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
If it is determined that COVID-19 vaccine booster shots are needed, will Shenandoah require them?
If vaccine boosters are recommended at some point in the future, the university will make a decision based on guidance from the CDC and Virginia Department of Health.
Once I am fully vaccinated, am I still required to participate in surveillance testing on campus?
No, those who are fully vaccinated do not need to participate in surveillance testing.
If I am exposed to COVID-19 after I am fully vaccinated, do I still have to quarantine?
No, those who are fully vaccinated do not have to quarantine unless they develop symptoms (as defined by the CDC).
Do I still need to wear a mask and social distance on campus?
See the Personal Conduct and Social Distancing Policy that specifies all university community members must:
If not fully vaccinated, wear a non-valved surgical, two-ply cloth, or other SU-approved face covering (“Mask”) over their nose and mouth in any enclosed campus building or structure, including academic and administrative buildings (“buildings”).
If you have been fully vaccinated, you need not wear a Mask indoors or outdoors on an SU campus or when attending SU-sponsored activities. Notwithstanding the foregoing, Masks may still be required for all persons in a SU class or activity (e.g., Conservatory dance classes) where the class or activity leader has requested to maintain that measure, and the Provost or Vice President for Student Affairs has approved the request in writing.
Per Virginia Governor’s Executive Order No. 79, Virginians are no longer required to socially distance, however the CDC continues to encourage social distancing for unvaccinated individuals.
Do I still need to complete the symptom checker on the Shenandoah Go app?
Beginning May 24, 2021, students and employees do not need to submit a report on the Shenandoah Go app on a daily basis anymore; they only need to submit on days when they are experiencing signs or symptoms of COVID-19.
I’m an international student and do not have access to any of the U.S. FDA-authorized vaccines before coming to campus in the fall. What should I do?
If international students do not have access to one of the U.S. FDA-authorized vaccines before coming to campus, they should notify Bethany Galipeau-Konate at email@example.com or +1 (540) 542-6285. Shenandoah will try to assist students with getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
Where can I find more information about the COVID-19 vaccines?
Please see the CDC’s website for the latest updates and frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccination.