Dear AU Community,
As we approach summer, there are many reasons to be excited and grateful. For me, the COVID-19 vaccines are incredible signs of hope. Our daughter Helene was recently vaccinated when 12–15-year-olds became eligible. That will give her many more opportunities this summer and for school next fall, protect her health, and contribute to the health of the communities of which she is a part. Across the country and in our own community, there are growing indications that vaccination efforts are helping to slow the spread of the virus and limit the damage from it. Case counts and hospitalizations are down. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and local governments are issuing updated guidance that supports additional activities and interactions. For all of us, the vaccines are welcome news and the opportunity to continue our work towards a safe and successful in-person fall semester.
Following the recent announcement of a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for AU students with campus presence in the fall and those studying abroad, we carefully considered including faculty and staff in this component of our health and safety approach. Across the higher education sector, nearly 100 universities have required vaccinations for faculty and staff. After consulting with AU community stakeholders and public health authorities, American University will require COVID-19 vaccinations for faculty and staff. This includes adjunct faculty members, part-time employees, visiting scholars/researchers, affiliates/volunteers, and full-time contract workers.
We believe vaccines are critical to the health of our community. I am fully vaccinated, and based on my conversations across our community, many other university leaders, faculty, and staff are as well. According to a recent survey of AU staff, 73 percent of respondents report they are already vaccinated and another 19 percent plan to get a vaccine. By achieving widespread vaccination within our AU community, we will support the return to in-person classes, residential experiences, and other campus and community activities in the fall. We will also support each other by protecting our own health, contributing to the well-being of those around us, reducing the potential for unsuspecting transmission of the virus to our families, and giving peace of mind to our friends and family, colleagues, and the broader DC community that we are proud to call home.
The COVID-19 vaccines are now widely available to people 12 years of age or older, and there is no charge to get the vaccine. You can find information online about vaccine availability in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Full vaccination is defined as 14 days after completion of two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of Johnson & Johnson. To make access to vaccines more convenient for our community, we will be hosting a vaccine clinic on-campus for faculty, staff, students, contract workers, and their immediate family members 18 years and older. Additional details will be provided by Human Resources.
The COVID-19 vaccines are critical to further reducing or even eliminating the transmission of the virus. The CDC has outlined helpful information, frequently asked questions, and the many benefits of getting vaccinated for COVID-19 including: preventing serious illness even for those who contract the virus; protecting others, particularly people at increased risk for severe illness; and allowing us, once fully vaccinated, to participate in many activities that stopped during the height of the pandemic. Additionally, by lowering case counts and transmission through extensive vaccination, we also reduce the potential for new virus variants that may be resistant to the vaccines and could cause future outbreaks. We know there may be ongoing questions and we will be holding vaccine information sessions for members of the AU community during the summer.
Faculty and staff will complete a vaccine attestation form or request an exemption to the vaccine requirement by July 30, 2021. Exemptions will be considered for medical or religious reasons, or faculty and staff with no campus presence. Employees who receive an exemption and anyone who does not complete the attestation form or exemption request will follow additional workplace health and safety practices to support our community. Specific arrangements for these employees will be based on factors including job responsibilities, primary location of job duties, interaction with other community members, etc. The safety measures may include more frequent required COVID-19 testing, mask wearing at all times on campus, and adjustments to campus workspaces, among others. Those who are not vaccinated will be advised not to attend large gatherings on campus. Exemptions and the associated workplace safety arrangements will not automatically lead to a faculty or staff member performing their duties exclusively remotely/online.
As a community dedicated to health and safety, we know our faculty, staff, and contractors will follow this requirement and be vaccinated for the fall. Our individual actions impact the rest of our interconnected community, which is why our commitment to health and safety measures throughout the pandemic helped keep case counts low within the AU community.
A vaccine requirement implementation team will ensure compliance with federal and local laws, including those related to employee confidentiality. Once vaccination status is confirmed, faculty and staff will be tested less frequently for COVID-19, but some level of surveillance testing will continue to support overall community health and safety. The university also reserves the right to increase testing frequency based on health conditions.
Thank you for your continued support of the health and safety of our entire community. Getting vaccinated for COVID-19 is the next key step in our return to in-person activity and critically important to our individual and collective health. Additional FAQs are available on the COVID-19 resources webpage and questions about the vaccine requirement can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be safe and be well.