A message to Penn faculty and staff regarding vaccinations

We deeply appreciate your continued commitment to keeping Penn a healthy and safe environment in which to live, learn, and work by following the public health guidance we have instituted for those on and off campus. Wearing masks, keeping physically distanced, and washing your hands remain the most critical tools to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The FDA’s emergency authorization of two COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna) provides another critical measure of protection against the pandemic. We recognize there are questions about how and when vaccines will be made available to the University community. We want to share both what we know and what remains in question.

We know clinical studies have demonstrated that the vaccines are safe and effective. We encourage you to review the helpful FAQs from Penn Medicine on vaccine safety. We are also very aware that guidance about and availability of vaccines in different areas are evolving. While this challenges our ability to plan ahead, we expect to receive more consistent information on vaccine distribution in the coming weeks.

Penn Medicine is currently vaccinating eligible University and health system individuals in line with the guidelines established by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH). They have successfully offered vaccinations to health system and University employees who are at high risk for exposure to COVID-19 in clinical or lab settings (Phase 1a). University Human Resources is beginning to work with schools and administrative units to identify Penn employees who perform essential, frontline duties that place them at greater risk for exposure (Phase 1b). We do not yet know when we will be able to implement this phase. However, we are actively working on a plan to offer the opportunity to receive a vaccine and will keep you informed as these plans are finalized.

PDPH’s current guidance is that higher education faculty and staff not covered in Phases 1a and 1b will be vaccinated during Phase 1c, as part of a cohort of other essential workers who have lower risk of exposure. Although we do not know when we will reach this phase, our goal is to offer the vaccine as broadly and equitably as possible to all University employees during this phase.

University employees and their families may also be eligible to receive a vaccine through other distribution channels, such as their healthcare provider or retail pharmacy, based upon other risk factors, including age and high-risk medical conditions. The City of Philadelphia just launched a vaccine interest form for Philadelphia residents. Employees living in Delaware or New Jersey should review state guidance. We encourage you to register for appropriate county and/or state government sites for notifications and to explore all options for you and your family in each phase of the rollout, given the supply limitations.

As more information and vaccine supply become available, we are committed to working to provide every University employee the opportunity to access a vaccine.