UC Berkeley community responds to vaccine verification policies

Photo of vaccination card
Anthony Angel Pérez/Staff
As in-person instruction for fall 2021 commences, UC Berkeley students express opinions regarding campus' process, or lack thereof, for verifying COVID-19 vaccination records.

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As UC Berkeley returns to in-person instruction and students upload their vaccine cards to eTang, campus health administrators are unable to verify all the vaccine records, as first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.

“We are not doing verification of all vaccine cards uploaded,” confirmed University Health Services, or UHS, spokesperson Tami Cate in an email. “We are doing them as clinically needed by UHS staff and also when contact tracing is done.”

Campus is able to verify records through some processes, Cate said. Firstly, 7,000 students and faculty have been vaccinated through UHS, and have vaccination records the system knows for a fact are genuine. The second half concerns those vaccinated in California, whose records are part of the California Immunization Registry. UHS has access to the state registry and verifies records only as needed, according to Cate.

As of Aug. 24, 94% of students and 88% of faculty have been vaccinated and uploaded their records to eTang, according to Cate. These numbers are within the university’s target of 90% total vaccination rate, she said, which was raised from 75% due to the transmissibility of the Delta variant.

“Our staffing is fully deployed in making sure we provide vaccines to those who need them,” Cate said in an email. “(We are) staffing our COVID response team and contact tracing teams, along with continuing to staff testing sites around campus.”

Despite these measures, the verification system has caused controversy among some members of the campus community.

Andrew Lenz, a campus senior, took to the “Overheard at UC Berkeley” Facebook group to express his thoughts. Lenz cited the San Francisco Chronicle’s article, in which Cate said that UC Berkeley “doesn’t have the staff resources to verify all vaccine cards.”

“Given that the admin is strongly pushing in-person classes as a ‘safe’ option … we should all be concerned that they are not doing their due diligence to ensure this so-called safety,” Lenz alleged in response to the article.

Campus alumni Christopher Heredia replied to Lenz’s post by alleging the inability to verify all records was an “excuse” to close campus again. Heredia then criticized the administration for allegedly having money to hire riot police during protests, but not to staff the COVID-19 verification office.

Others, such as campus alumni Nicolas Dussaux, argued that the system’s shortcomings were not as bad as they seemed.

“The marginal cost of enforcing the vaccination (and the uploading) … is probably way too high to be put in place (without even thinking about the legal issues),” Dussaux wrote in a reply to Lenz. “The efficacy rate of the vaccines is so high anyway that 80% makes Cal a safe place.”

Contact Christopher Ying at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @ChrisYingg.