What is the importance of vaccinations in supporting fully in-person instruction?
Achieving high levels of COVID-19 vaccination among eligible students, as well as teachers, staff, and household members, is critical to help schools safely resume full operations.
Vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic. People who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are at low risk of symptomatic or severe infection. A growing body of evidence suggests that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are less likely to have an asymptomatic infection or transmit COVID-19 to others than people who are not fully vaccinated.
Everyone 5 years of age or older is eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. Youth aged 12-17 years old and adults aged 18 years and older are also eligible for booster doses, per the CDC’s recommendations. Schools can promote vaccinations among teachers, staff, families, and eligible students by providing information about COVID-19 vaccination, encouraging vaccine trust and confidence, and establishing supportive policies and practices that make getting vaccinated as easy and convenient as possible.
By when must school personnel obtain the COVID-19 vaccine or submit to at least weekly testing?
School personnel acting in their school-based role on or before the effective date of Executive Order 2021-22 must receive, at a minimum, the first dose of a two-dose vaccine series or a single-dose vaccine by September 19, 2021, and, if applicable, the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series within 30 days following the administration of their first dose.
School personnel first starting in their school-based role after the effective date of Executive Order 2021-22 must receive, at a minimum, the first dose of a two-dose vaccine series or a single-dose vaccine within 10 days of their start date in the school-based role, and, if applicable, the second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series within 30 days following the administration of their first dose.
Beginning September 19, 2021, school personnel who are not fully vaccinated must be tested for COVID-19 with either a PCR or antigen test that either has emergency use authorization by the FDA or is operating per the Laboratory Developed Test requirements by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) until they are fully vaccinated. Testing must occur at least weekly for unvaccinated school personnel.
If a school is experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19 and school personnel who are not fully vaccinated may be part of the outbreak as determined by public health authorities, such school personnel must be tested two times per week for the duration of that outbreak. Individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 within the prior 90 days and are currently asymptomatic may be exempted from testing during outbreaks, unless otherwise required by local public health officials. Individuals who are fully vaccinated and a close contact of a COVID-19 case should be tested 5 to 7 days after exposure.
To whom does the COVID-19 vaccination or testing requirement apply?
The requirement applies to all public and nonpublic pre-K-12 school personnel.
“School” means any public or nonpublic elementary or secondary school, including charter schools, serving students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, including any state-operated residential schools such as the Philip Rock Center and School, the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired, the Illinois School for the Deaf, and the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. The term "school" does not include the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice.
“School personnel” means any person who
is employed by, volunteers for (including but not limited to coaches, before and after school program volunteers, chaperones, etc.), or is contracted to provide services for a school or school district serving students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, or who is employed by an entity that is contracted to provide services to a school, school district, or students of a school
is in close contact (fewer than 6 feet) with students of the school or other school personnel for more than 15 minutes at least once a week on a regular basis as determined by the school
The term “school personnel” does not include any person who is present at the school for only a short period of time and whose moments of close physical proximity to others on site are fleeting (e.g., contractors making deliveries to a site where they remain physically distanced from others or briefly entering a site to pick up a shipment).
Is there a state mandate that students obtain the COVID-19 vaccine?
There is no state mandate for pre-K-12 students to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine. However, the CDC and IDPH strongly encourage all individuals eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine to be vaccinated. Vaccination benefits not only the individual, but also schools and communities by reducing transmission.
Are schools required to collect vaccination status of school personnel?
Yes, 23 Ill. Admin. Code 6 requires all schools to maintain a record for school personnel employed by the school or school district that identifies them as one of the following: fully vaccinated, unvaccinated and compliant with the testing requirements, or excluded from school premises.
Each school shall maintain the following documentation for each school personnel employed by the school or district, as applicable:
Proof of vaccination against COVID-19
The results of COVID-19 tests
Schools shall maintain any school personnel medical records in accordance with applicable law.
How can a school determine if school personnel are vaccinated?
Schools must require school personnel who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to submit proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to the school by September 19, 2021, or immediately upon becoming fully vaccinated.
“Proof of Vaccination Against COVID-19” means:
a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 vaccination record card or photograph of such card, or
documentation of vaccination from a health care provider or an electronic health record, or
state immunization records
Adults can authorize release of such proof for themselves by completing a request for immunization records from the Illinois Comprehensive Automated Immunization Registry Exchange (I-CARE). (Chicago residents can complete the request for immunization records using this form.) Adults can also access their vaccination records through IDPH’s immunization portal, Vax Verify, which allows Illinois residents 18 years and older to check their COVID-19 vaccination record.
Federal laws do not prevent employers from requiring employees to bring in documentation or other confirmation of vaccination. This information, like all medical information, must be kept confidential and stored separately from the employee’s personnel files under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
How can a school determine if a student is vaccinated?
Schools can choose how and whether they will identify students who have been vaccinated and should communicate their strategies and any changes in plans to school personnel, to families, and directly to eligible students. For instance, schools may request proof of vaccination from parents for their children to determine vaccination status. Adults can authorize release of such proof for their children by completing a request for immunization records (Chicago residents can complete the request for immunization records using this form) from the Illinois Comprehensive Automated Immunization Registry Exchange (I-CARE).
Schools that plan to request voluntary submission of documentation of students’ COVID-19 vaccination status should use the same standard protocols that are used to collect and to secure other immunization or health status information from students. The protocol to collect, to secure, to use, and to further disclose this information should comply with relevant statutory and regulatory requirements, including Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) statutory and regulatory requirements.
In addition, local school authorities are permitted to access the statewide immunization database to review student immunization records. Only employees who have direct responsibility for ensuring student compliance with 77 Ill. Adm. Code 665.210 can apply for and receive access to I-CARE, the statewide system. No access will be granted to other personnel, such as superintendents or human resource managers. All individuals with I-CARE access are subject to all requirements and penalties authorized by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). School employees may apply for access to I-CARE by following the instructions. Contact I-CARE program staff via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Who is responsible for ensuring that school personnel not employed by the school or school district comply with the vaccination or testing requirements?
The school or school district is ultimately responsible for ensuring that all individuals who meet the definition of school personnel comply with the vaccination or testing requirements, regardless of employer. However, it is expected that any entity who employ school personnel will also ensure that such individuals meet the vaccination or testing requirements.
For school personnel who are not employed by the school or school district but are providing services through another entity (i.e., a contractor or service provider of the school), the school may determine that such school personnel are compliant with Executive Order 2021-22 by requiring the entity to:
Collect proof of vaccination against COVID-19 from the school personnel or proof of compliance with the testing requirements under Section 6.40 and
submit an attestation to the school that they have collected this proof for any school personnel they will provide to the school
Non-school district entities that employ individuals who fall within the definition of school personnel may request permission from the school districts they serve to have those employees participate in the weekly COVID-19 testing services that those school districts provide to their employees. School districts are encouraged, but not required, to grant permission for the employees of entities who provide services to their schools to participate in the school district’s COVID-19 testing program.
May school personnel refuse to be fully vaccinated for any reason?
School personnel may choose not to be vaccinated due to a religious objection, a medical contraindication to the COVID-19 vaccine, or for any other reason. However, both the CDC and IDPH strongly encourage all individuals eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine to be vaccinated and for schools and school districts to encourage their employees to be vaccinated. Regardless of the reason for refusing vaccination, all school personnel who are not fully vaccinated must submit to at least weekly testing beginning September 19, 2021, and must continue to submit to at least weekly testing until they are fully vaccinated. Asymptomatic school personnel who tested positive for COVID-19 within the prior 90 days may be exempted from weekly testing for that 90-day period from infection on the condition that they provide confirmation of prior infection.
May schools institute requirements for vaccination or testing that exceed the requirements set forth in Executive Order 2021-22 and ISBE’s Emergency Rules?
Yes, a school may adopt vaccination or testing requirements that exceed the requirements in Executive Order 2021-22. For example, a school may require that all school personnel, other than those with a religious objection or who have a medical contraindication to the COVID-19 vaccine, be fully vaccinated. Likewise, a school may require more frequent testing than is prescribed by Executive Order 2021-22 and 23 Ill. Admin. Code 6.