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Do Morehouse students, faculty, and staff have to be vaccinated against COVID-19?
- Yes. Morehouse College requires all faculty, staff, new students, and returning students to be fully vaccinated before arriving on campus in the fall.
Our requirement mirrors policies at all Atlanta University Center Consortium institutions— Morehouse, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Spelman College, as well as the AUC Robert W. Woodruff Library — all of which are requiring vaccination. The vaccination requirement is also being implemented at many other institutions as a best practice protocol to protect the health of their campus communities, including Emory University, Rutgers University, Duke University, Yale University, Columbia University, Brown University, Cornell University, Georgetown University, American University and more.
Why do I need to be vaccinated?
- Morehouse is committed to fostering a safe campus living and learning environment where the spread of COVID-19 is mitigated to the fullest extent possible. We do not want you to be sick with COVID-19 or make others sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages vaccination as the best way to protect yourself and others from contracting and spreading COVID-19 and its variants, with benefits including:
- Getting a COVID-19 vaccine will help prevent serious illness even for those who contract the virus.
- Individuals getting vaccinated may also protect others, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness, including older adults, those who are pregnant, and those with medical conditions.
What does “fully vaccinated” mean?
- Before you arrive on campus this fall, two or more weeks must have passed since receipt of the second dose in a two-dose series (such as the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines) or since receipt of a single-dose vaccine (such as the Johnson and Johnson vaccine).
Note that if you receive a two-dose vaccine, such as Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna, you will generally have to wait between three weeks and four weeks for your second shot. You cannot come to campus if you have only had your first shot of a two-dose vaccine. In this case, you may want to make sure you receive your first shot of a two-dose vaccine at least six weeks before you plan to arrive on campus.
Which vaccines qualify?
- You must have received a vaccine authorized and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent COVID-19.
Currently, authorized vaccines are:
- Johnson and Johnson/ Janssen
How do I know if I qualify to receive a vaccine?
- All Americans aged 16 and older are currently eligible to receive a vaccine.
Where can I get the vaccine?
- Check with your state’s public health department or local government to find local locations where you can receive the vaccine. Many major pharmacies also administer the vaccine. You can also use online tools like the ones below:
Do I have to pay to receive the vaccine?
- No. The vaccine can be obtained through your health care provider or state and federal governments at no cost to you. However, some providers charge a small fee, so check with the vaccine provider you plan to use before you arrive to make sure you have any needed documentation and understand if they are charging any fees. If they are charging and you do not want to pay, contact your local public health department to find a no-cost provider or visit Vaccine Finder.
The vaccines have only been approved for emergency use by the FDA. How do I know that they are safe?
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asserts that vaccines authorized and recommended by the CDC and the FDA are safe and effective.
- Over 189 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were administered in the United States from Dec. 14, 2020 through April 12, 2021 under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history.
- COVID-19 vaccines were evaluated in tens of thousands of participants in clinical trials. The vaccines met FDA’s rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality needed to support emergency use authorization (EUA).
- Short-term side effects have proven to be mild, and long-term side effects are unlikely.
- You can also contact your doctor or medical provider to answer more direct questions about the safety of the vaccines.
Many Blacks are hesitant about taking a vaccine because of medical history in America, which includes the Tuskegee Experiment and biomedical research using the cells of Henrietta Lacks without her informed consent. How can I trust the vaccines and the entities that created and authorized them?
- We understand that many Blacks are understandably cautious about biomedical treatments given the dishonesty associated with some research in the past. It is important to note, however, that neither the Tuskegee Experiment syphilis study nor the research using Henrietta Lacks’s cells involved actual injection of any disease into the body of a human.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that public health has historically been influenced by the same systemic racism found elsewhere in American society. That’s why respected Black health and science leaders have been highly involved in the development and distribution of the vaccines, including educators and administrators from the Atlanta University Center.
Unlike the Tuskegee Experiment, when Black men were not given treatment that might make them better, the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine is being made available to everyone, including communities of color. We are now in a public health crisis, which has disproportionately impacted communities of color. Thousands of Blacks and other people of color were included in the clinical trials before any vaccines were authorized, and millions have now received the vaccine safely.
Many Black medical and science professionals have been involved in the oversight of the vaccine authorizations, including access to results from clinical trials. Other people of color have been instrumental in the development of the vaccines, such as Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a 34-year-old Black doctor who led the team at the National Institutes of Health, which oversaw the development of the Moderna vaccine. The safety and efficacy of these vaccines have been affirmed by many trusted Black medical leaders who have deep experience in public health in communities of color, including the presidents of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, the National Black Nurses Association, Meharry Medical College, the National Medical Association, and Morehouse School of Medicine. The National Medical Association, in particular, established a task force that reviewed the clinical trial data and found that “both the percentage and number of Black people enrolled are sufficient to have confidence in health outcomes of the clinical trials.”
I’d rather take the risk, and after all, it’s my body. Do I still have to get the vaccine?
- Everyone who lives, learns, and works at Morehouse College is part of an interconnected environment. Something that impacts one of us impacts us all, which is why we require many different immunizations and vaccinations for members of the community who have frequent interactions with others.
COVID-19 is a deadly virus that will not eradicate itself overnight. If you do not receive the vaccine and then, in turn, contract the virus, you put anyone who comes into contact with you in danger, including health care workers who might have to treat you if you are sick, students and faculty you may come into contact with you if you are asymptomatic, and employees who might have to help you quarantine or isolate. If you then trigger a need for contact tracing, where others who have come into contact with you must be identified, tested, and quarantined, significant resources must be expended, and numerous lives disrupted. Vaccinated people have a low risk of contracting the virus, but it is still a risk; and even if everyone around you is vaccinated, you may still pass it on to someone who is susceptible to a related illness.
Being vaccinated not only protects you, but it also protects the Morehouse community of which you are an integral part.
My religious beliefs prevent me from taking vaccinations like the ones for COVID-19. Can I be exempt from the mandatory vaccine?
- Requests for exemptions based on religious beliefs will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and where a bona fide religious objection is properly demonstrated, an exemption may be granted. If you wish to request a religious exemption, please contact the Morehouse College Office of Human Resources for further guidance. Note that a religious exemption is not the same as a philosophical, moral, or conscientious exemption.
I have a medical condition that makes it risky for me to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Can I be exempt from the mandatory vaccine?
- Like most medical and pharmacological treatments, research indicates that individuals with certain preexisting medical conditions may have an enhanced risk of negative side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine. If you are concerned about the potential negative side effects of taking one of the vaccines, we encourage you to consult your physician for further guidance. Requests for medical exemptions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and where a bona fide medical objection is properly demonstrated, an exemption may be granted. If you wish to request a medical exemption, please contact the Morehouse College Office of Human Resources for further instruction.
If you wish to request a medical exemption, please note that you should not disclose the nature of your medical condition unless explicitly asked to do so. In many cases, documentation from your treating physician certifying their recommendation that you abstain from receiving the vaccine on the basis of a preexisting condition will be sufficient to grant a request for a medical exemption.
I am pregnant or breastfeeding. Do I still have to receive the vaccine?
- You should consult your doctor or medical provider for guidance on receiving the vaccine if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. You will need a medical exemption if your medical provider recommends that you not receive the vaccine.
I do not have a religious or medical exemption, would rather not get vaccinated. How does this impact my role at Morehouse?
- The safety of the community is our top priority, which is why we’ve mandated the vaccination for all faculty, staff, and students. The only exemptions we will make are religious or medical. Not getting vaccinated could result in the loss of your position or suspension if a special exception is not recognized.
If I lost or did not receive documentation after I received an approved vaccine, what do I do?
- Most states require the provider who administered your shot to provide the state with a record of your vaccination. You can contact your health care provider or the state’s health department for assistance obtaining documentation.
If you live in Georgia, for instance, you can request a record of all vaccinations through the Georgia Department of Public Health by submitting a Request for State of Georgia Official Immunization Record. They will send you a record of all of your vaccinations, including COVID-19, within three to five business days.
Learn more from the Georgia Department of Public Health at https://dph.georgia.gov/immunization-section.
Is it legal for Morehouse to require me to be vaccinated?
- Absolutely—and we do not offer this answer lightly. Morehouse and all Atlanta University Center Consortium institutions received extensive legal guidance on this question prior to announcing the mandatory vaccination policy, and just like any other vaccination requirement, we are permitted to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory, subject to standard exemptions for medical and religious reasons. The fact that the approved COVID-19 vaccinations were approved via Emergency Use Authorization (rather than the standard FDA approval process) does not preclude us from making the COVID-19 vaccination mandatory, so long as the public health emergency posed by the novel coronavirus persists.
I received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but I have heard there are issues with it. Does this still meet the requirement?
- Yes. The CDC and FDA have recommended a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine in the United States out of an abundance of caution because of a small number of reports of a rare and severe type of blood clot happening in people who got this vaccine. If you have already received the vaccine or receive it after the CDC and FDA lift the pause, you are still considered fully vaccinated.
Will I still need to physically socially distance, wear a mask, and practice hand hygiene after I receive the vaccine?
- Yes, at least for now. Although the vaccines are very effective in preventing illness associated with the virus, authorities and scientists are unsure if you can still carry the virus and infect others. In addition, though there is a low risk of becoming ill if you have received a vaccine, a low risk is still a risk, and we want you to be as careful and healthy as possible.
Will I still need to use the symptom tracker after I receive the vaccine?
- Yes, we anticipate maintaining the daily symptom tracker as part of our safety protocols.
Will I still have to be frequently tested for COVID-19 after I receive the vaccine?
- Yes, we anticipate maintaining COVID-19 testing as part of our safety protocols.
Is Morehouse the only college with this requirement?
- No. All Atlanta University Center Consortium institutions— Morehouse, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Spelman College— are requiring vaccination. The AUC Robert W. Woodruff Library is also implementing a requirement. There is some form of vaccination requirement at other institutions, including Rutgers University, Emory University, Duke University, Yale University, Columbia University, Brown University, Cornell University, Georgetown University, and American University.
Once I submit my vaccination information, how can I be sure my private personal health information is protected?
- We are finalizing the process for receiving vaccination information to ensure there are confidentiality measures in place.
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Which students are required to receive the vaccine?
- All residential students. This includes new students who will be freshmen this fall as well as returning students.
I thought young people were immune to COVID-19. Why do I have to be vaccinated?
- Younger people as a whole have never been immune to contracting COVID-19, although the rate of illness among younger people has been lower. Nevertheless, many young people have become ill after contracting the virus, and some have died. In addition, some young people who contract the virus develop “long haul” symptoms, which may not show up until weeks after your initial symptoms subside.
How can I submit my vaccination documentation?
- You will submit your vaccine documentation through the Medicat portal. You will be required to upload a front and back copy of your Covid-19 Vaccination Card.
When should I submit my vaccination documentation?
- Once you are fully vaccinated (received both shots), you are encouraged to upload your vaccination information into the Medicat portal. The deadline to submit your vaccination information is July 30, 2021.
Can I submit my vaccination documentation along with all of my immunization information?
- Yes, you can upload with your immunization information. The updated health records and immunization form for new students and transfers has an area identified for Covid-19 vaccination information.
If I don’t want to receive a vaccine, can I continue to just take classes online?
- Morehouse will do its best to provide classes that meet the needs of all students, whether in-person or online. However, we may not be able to offer the full range of course options to online-only students as we anticipate doing for in-person students.
An announcement will happen in the early summer, enabling students to know the teaching modality of their Fall classes. Students will be able to make informed adjustments at that time.
The recommendation is that all individuals get vaccinated, but as long as you are not coming onto Morehouse College’s campus, you are not required to be vaccinated.
I already had COVID-19. Do I still need to show proof of vaccination for in-person attendance?
- Yes. The science is not clear on how long COVID-19 antibodies will last if you’ve had COVID-19. The science is clear on how long the antibodies last in individuals that have been fully vaccinated.
Will I be able to register for classes for Fall 2021 without having been vaccinated yet?
- Yes, you will be able to register for classes prior to vaccination, but you will have to show proof of vaccination (or receive an exemption) before coming to campus to attend classes or live in a residence hall this fall.
I am an international student and have not had access to a vaccine. What should I do?
Strategies regarding international students will be forthcoming.
I am an international student and have received the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not authorized in the United States. Does this meet the Morehouse requirement?
- No, not right now. AstraZeneca has not been approved for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) in the United States. Therefore, it will not meet the Morehouse requirements.
I am a fully online student. Do I need to be vaccinated?
- You may forego vaccination if you do not plan to come to the Morehouse campus at all, will not participate in any in-person activities, or interact in the same physical space as anyone affiliated with Morehouse. However, if you want to experience any of these aspects of the Morehouse community, you must be vaccinated.
The recommendation is that all individuals get vaccinated but as long as you are not coming onto Morehouse College’s campus, you are not required to be vaccinated.
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How can I submit my vaccination documentation?
- We are developing the process for submitting documentation and will inform employees when it is complete.
When should I submit my vaccination documentation?
- We are developing the process for submitting documentation and will inform employees about the timeline.
I already had COVID-19. Do I still need to show proof of vaccination to come to work on campus?
Some other colleges with vaccination requirements are applying them only to students. Why am I being required to receive the vaccine as an employee?
- We believe that the safest protocol is to ensure that we have a highly vaccinated population, not only among students but also among faculty, staff, and our on-campus vendors, as we can all carry and transmit the virus.
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