All UC employees, student workers eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

Photo of COVID-19 Vaccine vial + syringe
Carlos M. Vazquez II/DOD/Creative Commons
All UC employees are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The update in state eligibility for the vaccine is in accordance with the California Department of Public Health’s transition into Phase 1b of the vaccine distribution. (Photo by Carlos M. Vazquez II under CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect information from Alameda County and the state about vaccine prioritization.

With California bringing educators to the forefront of COVID-19 vaccination distribution, all UC employees are now eligible for the vaccination, including student employees and educators.

Since moving into Phase 1b, any state resident who works in higher education is eligible for the vaccination through the California Department of Public Health’s, or CDPH’s, designation of the education sector. Depending on eligibility requirements set by each vaccination provider, those permitted may include faculty, staff, postdoctoral students, student instructors and researchers, readers, tutors, student assistants and any other campus employees, according to University Health Services, or UHS, spokesperson Tami Cate.

As of Tuesday, UHS had its last vaccine clinic for the first dose until it receives more doses when they are more widely available. According to Cate, UHS anticipates having enough vaccines to provide those who received their first dose through the university with their second dose.

“When we do get more vaccines, the new direction from the state and UCOP is that we will be shifting our scope to providing vaccines to students as their health care provider, rather than to staff,” Cate said in an email. “In order to get ready for this, we will continue our planning efforts to reach out to all students by mid-March to get information on underlying medical conditions.”

Cate added that UHS is optimistic that throughout the next few months, the availability of vaccines will “rapidly increase.”

Riya Master, chief of staff for the ASUC Office of External Affairs, alleged that campus is not sending emails about eligibility to students in the sector because UHS is currently not providing vaccines. However, eligible individuals can go to local vaccination sites.

Master added that any campus education employee can enter their current zip code in CDPH’s My Turn website and receive their vaccine regardless of their location in the state.

According to the Alameda County Public Health Department COVID-19 vaccine eligibility guidelines, those who are prioritized under the education sector are individuals who are at a high risk of spreading or contracting the virus due to their work environment.

Additionally, the Alameda County Public Health Department advises that if an individual who works under this sector is not in direct contact with the public or has the option to work from home to wait for their turn. This is also in accordance with the California Department of Public Health COVID-19 vaccine allocation guidelines.

While many students expressed concern online over DeCal facilitators and student educators receiving vaccines despite classes being virtual, others advised that people should consider the opportunity, as it will contribute to the possibility of herd immunity.

“There’s a certain amount of vaccines allocated to each sector, and you not taking it isn’t letting someone else take it, because it’s already allocated,” Master said. “There’s a difference between being eligible and cheating your way through the system.”

Subeksha Sharma, Advocates for Public Health DeCal facilitator, said students who are eligible and considering getting vaccinated should consider their personal risks, health risks within their household and vaccine supply in their counties.

Kavitha Iyengar, president of United Auto Workers Local 2865, the union representing UC academic student employees, said in an email that the union encourages actively searching out information on vaccine eligibility.

“We encourage all workers to sign up for California’s My Turn webpage to be notified when you are eligible to be vaccinated and there are appointments available near you,” Iyengar said in the email. “We will continue to fight for a reopening plan that prioritizes safety and equitable access to UC.”

Contact Maya Akkaraju at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @maya_akkaraju.