August 25, 2021

Why is 90% the magic number?

UCR will consider campus fully vaccinated when it reaches 90% compliance. Our experts explain the reasoning.

Author: J.D. Warren
August 25, 2021

With a month until fall quarter begins, the number of verified vaccinations at UCR reached about 65% for students, and just over 75% for employees. The numbers were updated Aug. 20. 

In late July, the University of California system moved the goal line for what constitutes a fully vaccinated campus, from 75% to 90%. 

Why 90%? There isn’t a specific threshold for “fully vaccinated” found in Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, literature. In its higher education guidelines, the CDC appears to suggest a threshold of 100% vaccination. UCR Student Health and School of Medicine sources say the 90% “fully vaccinated campus” number was decided by a committee appointed by the University of California Office of the President, or UCOP.

Linda Roney, UCR’s director of COVID-19 Management, is a member of the UCOP committee that developed the revised guidelines. 

“The CDC guidance implies 100% of individuals vaccinated meets the definition of ‘fully vaccinated campus,’” Roney said. “However, the UCOP team agreed that 100% would not be achievable.”

Dr. Kenneth Han, chief physician with UCR Student Health, said 90% is the agreed-upon threshold at which a population acquires herd immunity — the point at which a population is immune to a disease, offering protection to those who are not immune.  

“From an infectious disease and epidemiological standpoint, vaccine rates within a population typically should reach approximately 90% to reach herd immunity,” said Han, quoting CDC guidelines

If UCR doesn’t meet UC’s guideline for a fully vaccinated campus by the start of classes, Roney said it will have to operate under stricter “mixed campus” guidance. She said that will require consultation with Riverside County health officials. 

UCR’s deadline for compliance to the systemwide SARS-CoV2 Vaccination Policy was Aug. 16, but the university continues to process vaccination verifications and exemption requests.

In an email this week, Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox reenforced the call for the campus community to consider the site the clearinghouse for fall return information.

Wilcox also discussed some changes due to increasing concerns about the coronavirus Delta variant. In-person fall convocation has been cancelled, and Wilcox said a prohibition of large gatherings not directly related to UCR’s instructional mission will soon be announced. 

Wilcox also said details of mandatory and recommended COVID-19 testing for students and employees will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

“Living with changing rules is certainly frustrating,” Wilcox wrote in the email distributed Aug. 25. “We are all living with some uncertainty, knowing we may need to shift with changing conditions during this stage of the pandemic.”

Previously, Wilcox announced a decision to require masks in most indoor settings this fall.  

On Aug. 23, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Brian Haynes further discussed fallout for students who don’t submit verification of their vaccine status, nor file for a medical or religious exemption.

To date, the university has said students could face a registration hold for noncompliance. Haynes wrote in the email that continued noncompliance may also result in an interim suspension, which effectively pauses the student’s relationship with campus. 

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