Duke to end COVID-19 vaccine requirement for most students, faculty and staff

Duke will no longer require current and new students, faculty and staff who do not work in a healthcare environment to receive the primary or booster vaccinations for COVID-19, per a Thursday email.

This change is effective May 11, when the federal Public Health Emergency ends, and is consistent with Duke’s peer universities, according to the email. Duke will continue to offer the primary and booster vaccinations free of charge to all students, faculty and staff.

Duke’s previous vaccination guidelines required “up-to-date vaccination against COVID-19 for all students, faculty, and staff” unless an individual has an approved medical or religious exemption. Duke also required all students and employees to provide proof of receiving the COVID-19 booster shot in February 2022. 

Over the last two academic years, Duke has gradually rolled back its COVID-19 protocols. In March, Duke no longer required masks on buses and vans. In March 2022, Duke removed the mask requirement in indoor facilities other than classrooms and on Duke transit. Then in September 2022, the University ended its classroom mask mandate. 

This most recent change in COVID-19 follows a series of rollbacks as campus COVID risk continues to decline, according to the email. 

“This decline is attributable to two key factors: our community has about 95 percent immunity (through vaccination or previous infection) and weaker variants of the virus evolved that cause less severe illness,” wrote Carol Epling, executive director of employee occupational health and wellness, John Vaughn, assistant vice president for student affairs & student health director and Cameron R. Wolfe.

Duke Health, which includes the Duke University Health System, the School of Medicine, the School of Nursing, the Private Diagnostic Clinic, and Duke Health Integrated Practice, recently announced that its faculty and staff are still required to receive the primary series of the COVID vaccination, but booster vaccinations are no longer required. All health science students will continue to follow the same protocols as Duke Health, according to the email.

Newly hired Duke Health employees will be required to have received at least a single dose of a World Health Organization approved COVID-19 vaccination or a Duke-approved medical or religious exemption prior to their start of work date. Employees receiving mRNA COVID-19 vaccines will be expected to complete the initial series within 30 days from their initial dose.

The email still strongly recommends members of the Duke community to receive up-to-date vaccinations against COVID-19, especially for those with conditions that place them at higher risk.

"Should any new variants or novel viruses emerge that may create a public health risk for our community, we will consider reinstituting protocols, including masking and required vaccination," the email read.

Other COVID-19 protocols

Anyone testing positive for COVID-19 should continue to report to Employee Health or Student Health, mask and isolate as required before returning to work, class or academic activities, according to the email. Employees can use the My COVID Link to report symptoms and test results. Students can contact Student Health for support and should isolate in place for at least 5 days from symptom onset and wear a mask when indoors or around others for 10 days.

“Should any new variants or novel viruses emerge that may create a public health risk for our community, we will consider reinstituting protocols, including masking and required vaccination,” the email read.  

The last two surveillance test sites on campus stopped operating on March 9. For symptomatic members of the Duke Community, symptomatic testing will still be available by contacting Student Health or Employee health.

Additionally, at-home antigen tests can be purchased at the Duke Store in the Bryan Center. Anyone with a DukeCard can receive one test kit a week at no charge.


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Katie Tan | Digital Strategy Director

Katie Tan is a Trinity junior and digital strategy director of The Chronicle's 119th volume. She was previously managing editor for Volume 118. 

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