UArizona Employees Must Upload Proof of Vaccination by Dec. 8

woman getting vaccinated

A COVID-19 vaccination is given at the University of Arizona in spring 2021.

Chris Richards/University of Arizona

University of Arizona employees have until Dec. 8 to submit documentation that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The university announced Friday that it would require all employees to be vaccinated in accordance with President Joe Biden's executive order requiring institutions that contract with the federal government to comply with guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force.

That task force has issued guidance requiring federal contractors to ensure their employees are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by Dec. 8.

"The university's federal contracts fund critical research, employment and educational efforts, and while we respect individual opinions regarding vaccines, we will continue these mission-critical endeavors and will comply with the requirement," Robbins said Monday during a virtual briefing.

All employees, including student workers, graduate assistants and graduate associates, must be vaccinated unless they have been granted a religious or disability exemption, Robbins said. Employees should contact Human Resources for religious exemptions or the Disability Resource Center for disability exemptions, which includes exemptions for medical conditions.

Once fully vaccinated, employees can upload their vaccination record online.  

Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University also are requiring employees to be vaccinated.

UArizona students and employees can get vaccinated at Campus Health, which is also offering Pfizer boosters for eligible populations. Those who received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least six month ago and who are 65 and older or who are 18 and older and have underlying medical conditions or live or work in long-term care settings or high-risk settings can get a booster.

The university also continues to offer COVID-19 testing for members of the campus community. In addition to offering swish-gargle PCR tests, which involve swishing and gargling a saline solution, the university has expanded the availability of its nasal-swab antigen tests, which give results in two hours, to all employees and students. Both tests are available by appointment at the Student Union Memorial Center.

The university's CATS TakeAway Testing program also continues to be available. People can pick up a swish-gargle test at one of several locations on campus or around the state, take the test at home and then return it to a designated location for analysis.

Vaccines 'Most Powerful' Tool Against Delta

The highly contagious delta variant has made COVID-19 vaccination especially important, said UArizona immunobiologist Deepta Bhattacharya, who joined Monday's briefing with Robbins and 17th U.S. Surgeon General and Distinguished Professor of Public Health Dr. Richard Carmona.

Initial Pfizer and Moderna vaccine trials showed that a vaccinated person was about 20 times less likely than an unvaccinated person to get sick from COVID-19, making the vaccines some of the most effective in history, said Bhattacharya, a professor in the Department of Immunobiology and a member of the university's BIO5 Institute.

However, the delta variant, which is two to three times more transmissible than earlier strains of the virus, has posed challenges, and breakthrough infections among vaccinated people have become more common.

Vaccinated people are still two to five times less likely than unvaccinated people to be infected with delta, but just as importantly, they're much less likely to get severely ill or require hospitalization, Bhattacharya said. Vaccinated people also are two-thirds less likely than unvaccinated people to transmit the virus to others, he said.  

Those who are unvaccinated will likely not be able to escape infection, Bhattacharya said.

"If you're not vaccinated, delta is going to find you eventually," he said.

It's not yet clear how much boosters enhance protection against COVID-19, but a third shot does cause antibodies to rise significantly, Bhattacharya said. Still, he noted that the initial doses of the vaccine remain the most important.

"By far, the most important doses to get are your first two, but it's also true that the boosters can help certain categories (of people)," he said.

For those wary of possible vaccine side effects, Bhattacharya said there is much more to fear with COVID-19 infection.

"The reality is that the virus COVID-19 is far more likely to cause problems than the vaccine," he said.

"The virus, as best we can tell, if you get infected kills something like 1 in 100 people, " he said. "Obviously, the vaccine doesn't do that."