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SLU COVID-19 Vaccination Information

With COVID-19 vaccines now available in the health care community, Saint Louis University leaders want to share what we know, what we are working to learn and what you can expect in the coming weeks and months.

Please treat this webpage as a living document, as it will change as we learn more. 

(Last updated Dec. 17, 2020)

Frequently Asked Questions

How do the COVID-19 vaccines work?    

The COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) are mRNA vaccines. Neither is a live-virus vaccine. Once injected, cells receive mRNA and use it as a template to make viral proteins. These proteins then activate the immune system to produce antibodies. If a vaccinated person is then exposed to COVID-19, these antibodies will recognize the viral protein and activate immune cells to detect and destroy the virus before it can cause illness. Learn more here.

If I get vaccinated, does that mean I don’t have to wear a face mask anymore, or follow other public health safeguards?

No. It will be many months before a critical mass of our community has been vaccinated. All community members –– including those who receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine -- must continue to abide by our public health safeguards, including wearing a face mask. Both SLU and the City of St. Louis have a face mask mandate in effect. Safeguards will, no doubt, be scaled down as the spread of the virus slows. It is currently impossible to predict when that will be. 

How many doses are required for the COVID-19 vaccines and how are they administered? 

The Pfizer vaccine is given by injection in two doses spaced 21 days apart. The Moderna vaccine is a two-dose injection spaced 28 days apart. People will need to receive 2 doses of the same vaccine formulation. People who do not receive a second dose within the appropriate time window would need to restart their vaccine series and would not be considered immune or protected from COVID-19 infection. 

What are the side effects from COVID-19 vaccines?

Common side effects include injection site soreness, diarrhea, fever and chills. The side effects are similar to the symptoms of COVID-19. Most vaccine-related effects wane after 24-48 hours. 

Does SLU have access to the vaccine right now?

No, we do not. Our SLUCare leaders are in close contact with our partners at SSM Health as they work through the first groups to be vaccinated as outlined by federal and state health officials. Our clinical staff are near the top of that list. We expect that inoculations for faculty, non-SLUCare staff, and students are months down the road. Please be patient. 

Know that our goal is to ensure opportunities for our campus community to have access to the vaccine based on tiers identified by state and local public health authorities. While such tiering systems help define the queue of vaccine recipients, they are imperfect. Your patience and understanding are appreciated.

How is it decided who gets the vaccine first? 

Federal health authorities have indicated that residents of long-term care facilities and frontline health care workers are to be among the first recipients of the vaccine. States have also been charged to develop a plan for how vaccines will be distributed at that level. University leaders are in constant contact with state officials to discuss what that could look like and develop a plan. 

Know that it is still very early in the preparation phase and that we are likely weeks or months from learning how Missouri might disseminate the vaccine beyond the initial, prioritized groups. In general, we can assume that healthy individuals who are of traditional college age may not be prioritized for vaccines for quite some time, unless individuals are in health-related fields that involve providing direct patient care in clinical settings. It’s possible that students in health-related fields will be considered for early vaccination due to their role in health care. More information about this will be shared as it becomes available. 

How can a SLU employee or student get the vaccine?

Clinical employees and students should continue to look for guidance from their clinical site about vaccine availability.

Non-clinical employees and students should continue to refer to this website and check their SLU email for any COVID-19 vaccine updates. This will be an ongoing discussion for weeks and months to come, but the University leadership is committed to transparency. 

What if I have an extenuating circumstance? Can I get an exception to get vaccinated now? 

Given the national priorities for vaccine distribution, not at this time. While we understand there will be a variety of circumstances that may seem to warrant expedited vaccination, we are not currently in a position to provide exceptions. We made it through our fall semester as OneSLU. And that mindset will ensure a successful spring semester.

What does emergency use authorization (EUA) mean? 

An Emergency Use Authorization is the authority for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to fast track the approval of a medication/therapeutic agent/vaccine in response to a public health emergency. An EUA may be granted for therapies that “may be effective,” or with a lower level of evidence than would otherwise be required for full FDA approval.