UCSD Employees, Student Workers in Different Vaccination Lines than SD County

In a press release from the Office of the Chancellor on Feb. 26, UC San Diego announced that it will start vaccinating all UCSD employees, including faculty, staff and postdoctoral researchers at the UCSD RIMAC Vaccination Super Station. Although student workers are not listed in the release, some have also reported getting invitations for vaccination.

Employees are encouraged to be vaccinated as soon as possible once a personal invitation to set up a vaccination appointment is sent through MyUCSDChart, UCSD’s electronic medical records system. UCSD employees are also eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine from their healthcare provider, San Diego County, or other authorized entities. 

However, according to the CDPH COVID-19 vaccine allocation guidelines and updated on Feb. 13, only people aged 65 and older, along with people working in the healthcare, food and agriculture, education and emergency services sectors are eligible for vaccination. 

San Diego County is currently in Phase 1B of vaccination distribution. Once Phase 1B is complete, Phase 1C will begin vaccination of people ages 16-64 with health conditions who are more vulnerable to complications from COVID-19. Phase 2 will then begin vaccination of people over age 16. 

UC Health is notably listed as a “multi-county entity” on a statewide dashboard maintained by the California Department of Public Health and has a separate vaccine supply allocation from San Diego County. UCSD Health receives vaccine supplies directly from the CDPH. As of March 6, UC Health has 53,114 COVID-19 vaccine doses on hand, a significant number when compared to the 63,055 doses allocated for the entire county. 

As a “multi-county entity,” UCSD is legally separate from San Diego County. Due to the separate allocation of vaccine supplies and separate health jurisdiction, according to an article by the San-Diego Union-Tribune, UCSD is able to distribute vaccines at a faster rate, and therefore give UC workers more immediate access to the COVID-19 vaccine. 

On UCSD’s Return to Learn COVID-19 Vaccination Information site, the university states that UC San Diego Health has begun vaccinating frontline essential employees, such as emergency response personnel, housing and dining workers and other essential employees who have been working on campus on a regular basis throughout the pandemic, as directed by the state.

When asked about student workers specifically, UCSD was unclear about how quickly student workers will be vaccinated. In an email to The UCSD Guardian from Erika Johnson, Assistant Director of University Communications, based on phases determined by the Center for Disease Control, most students will be invited to receive vaccinations in Phase 2. 

There were also concerns and reports on people experiencing difficulties and delays when scheduling an appointment for the second dose required for both the Pfizer and the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to reach 95 percent effectiveness. 

In an email to all students on March 3, UCSD stated that the delay is due to limited supply, but also emphasized that a delay in the second dose will not necessarily cause adverse effects.

“Infectious disease researchers and physicians at UC San Diego Health and UC San Diego School of Medicine, with many other experts across the country, do not believe a delay in the recommended second dose beyond the 42-day interval negatively affects vaccination protection,” the email said. “In fact, experience with other vaccines indicates that boosting the initial immune response is even more effective when there is a longer interval between first and second doses.”

The new and third available COVID-19 vaccine, the Janssen vaccine created by Johnson and Johnson, was approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 27. This vaccine is given in one dose.

In a previous article by The UCSD Guardian, Professor Robert Schooley M.D., an infectious diseases expert and one of the leaders of the Return to Learn program, said that the new vaccine approval by the Food and Drug Administration will significantly increase the rate of vaccination. He also emphasized on the effectiveness of the vaccine in regards to preventing disease and transmission.

“We’re looking at the impact of the vaccine and whether people continue to shed the virus. We know that some people do, we don’t yet know whether or not there’s enough virus to be concerned about in terms of transmitting it to other people. The vaccine is most effective in preventing disease; people from getting sick, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Schooley said then. “We don’t know as much as we need to know about whether it also prevents viral shedding and transmission, but we’ll know that soon.”

Due to the lack of information for COVID-19 transmission rate among vaccinated individuals, individuals are still recommended to continue wearing masks and observing physical distancing.

For more information on COVID-19 testing and vaccination, visit the UCSD Return to Learn website.

Photo courtesy of the San Diego County News Center.

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