Vaccine

We will update this page as information changes or more details become available.

Have a question about the COVID-19 vaccines that isn’t answered below? Check out the frequently asked questions developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and by the Virginia Department of Health. 

Q: When can I get the vaccine?

A: Students on both campuses who are designated for front-facing clinical placements and patient care started receiving vaccinations the week of Jan. 11. The university and VCU Health System are communicating with designated VCU employees whose work supports the needs of our patients and who are university health care providers. And, VCU is working with the Virginia Department of Health on the timeline for vaccine availability for all faculty and staff. Vaccination distribution is based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Virginia Department of Health guidelines. Employees and students who fall into these categories will be notified by VCU through their VCU email account.

The university and health system are prepared to do their part to assist in vaccinating other populations under the state’s phased approach. The state’s phased approach was announced in early January and continues to be updated by the Virginia Department of Health. Use the following VDH links for more details:

The vaccination process and timeline remains fluid, contingent on vaccine supply and adequate numbers of vaccine administrators.

Q: How will I know when I am eligible for the vaccine?

A: Eligible employees and students will be contacted through their VCU email account. The email will provide instructions on how to schedule an appointment and where to go and how to prepare.

Q: If I receive notification that I am eligible for the vaccine, how much time do I have to respond?

A: Appointments are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Q: Which vaccine is being administered at VCU/VCU Health?

A: Currently, VCU Health is administering the FDA-approved Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Q: What is the process for receiving the vaccine? Does it require two shots?

A: The vaccine will be administered by VCU Health in two doses – an initial dose, and then a second dose after 21 days for the Pfizer vaccine or after 28 days for the Moderna vaccine.

Q: Is the vaccine required to work or attend in-person classes?

A: At this time, the COVID-19 vaccine is optional. It is not a condition of enrollment or employment with the university. There are no legal penalties for refusing it, but we urge you to get it once you are eligible. Once enough people are vaccinated against COVID-19 and the positive effect is reflected in the COVID-19 data that public health authorities are monitoring, we can begin resuming more of the everyday activities we enjoyed before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: When will the COVID-19 vaccine be offered to students?

A: VCU is working with the Virginia Department of Health to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. VCU will continue to follow guidelines from the VDH and the CDC regarding the COVID-19 vaccine tiers and eligibility.

Q: If I get vaccinated, do I still have to perform daily health checks or participate in asymptomatic surveillance testing?

A: Currently yes. Even after receiving your vaccination, you should continue to follow the health and safety protocols, including daily health checks and participating, if selected, in the asymptomatic surveillance testing. You should also continue to practice safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by covering your mouth and nose with a mask, washing hands often, staying at least six feet away from others and avoiding crowded spaces.

Q: Does receiving the vaccine automatically clear me for Entry Pass?

A: Currently, you will need to continue to present your Entry Pass.

Q: How will the vaccine be stored safely?

A: There is a robust “cold chain” for vaccines in the United States already that applies to a number of vaccines and therapeutics. This infrastructure already exists and there are regulatory standards that have to be met for institutions to accept and house these products. This existing infrastructure will be used to assure the new vaccines are transported and stored optimally. VCU Medical Center meets all of the requirements to safely receive, store and transport the COVID-19 vaccines.

Q: How long is the vaccine effective?

A: This is not clear yet – from the released data it appears the response to vaccination is quite robust, at least initially. It’s possible that over time more doses will be needed to provide continued protection, similar to the flu vaccine. Refer to the CDC's frequently asked questions for additional details about the vaccines.

Q: What are the potential side effects?

A: Clinical trials have not found any serious safety issues with the vaccines, however, there are potential mild to moderate side effects including fever, fatigue, headache, muscle aches and pain at the injection site for a couple days. According to the CDC, these side effects are normal and a sign that the body is building immunity.

Q: What if my reaction to the vaccine lasts longer than 48 hours?

A: At this time and according to the CDC, research shows that any reactions to the vaccine are lasting no more than 48 hours. If you experience a reaction to the vaccine that exceeds 48 hours, please contact your primary health care professional or call 804-MYCOVID to discuss with Employee Health or Student Health Services.

Q: If I have had COVID-19 should I still get the vaccine?

A: According to the CDC, anyone currently infected with COVID-19 should wait to get vaccinated until after their illness has resolved and after they have met the criteria to discontinue isolation. Current evidence suggests that reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19 is uncommon in the 90 days after initial infection. Therefore, people with a recent infection may delay vaccination until the end of that 90-day period if desired.

Q: Is the vaccine a cure? Do we still need to practice COVID-19 prevention efforts? And follow the university’s health and safety protocols?

A: The CDC reports that recent studies have shown that the vaccine prevents you from getting COVID-19 symptoms and severe disease. It is still not known to what extent the vaccines prevent you from contracting and spreading the virus and so it will be important to maintain social distance and wear masks even once you are vaccinated. You will still be required to complete your daily health check, and participate in the mandatory surveillance testing program should you be selected. Also, there will be a period of time in which people will still need to practice social distancing and wear face masks, even once some have had a vaccine. Nationwide and global distribution will take months, maybe years. Achieving herd immunity – the percentage of a population that needs to be vaccinated in order to protect a community from the disease – means getting 70 to 90 percent of people vaccinated.