Message on COVID-19 Vaccine Development and Distribution for the Duke Community

Dear Duke Health and Duke University colleagues and staff:

In the near future, we expect the FDA to review initial safety data on one or more COVID-19 vaccines. We want you to know that we are carefully and closely monitoring these developments. Our Duke experts will review all available safety and efficacy data for any authorized vaccine to ensure the science supports its use.

In anticipation of FDA emergency use authorization, we are preparing for Duke to participate in an efficient and equitable distribution of the vaccine in close coordination with NC DHHS and local health departments.

  • The vaccine will be offered in a CDC-defined phased approach that prioritizes our healthcare workers who are most likely to be exposed to the COVID-19 virus while providing care to our patients - including staff within our clinical and research laboratories. We will be contacting these eligible employees in the coming weeks to provide additional information.
  • Subsequent phases will address adult patients and employees at high risk of complications from a COVID-19 infection as defined by the CDC. (You can learn more about this phased approach on the NC DHHS website.)
  • Pregnant people in early vaccine administration phase categories may be eligible for vaccination if allowed under the emergency use authorization and CDC recommendations. Pregnant people should consult with their obstetric care provider regarding the potential benefit of the vaccine balanced against the unknown possible risks.
  • Children will not be included in the first phase of vaccine distribution because pediatric patients were not initially included in vaccine clinical trials. We need to wait until we have enough data to ensure safety and efficacy in children.
  • Currently, there are no plans to require COVID-19 vaccination for any Duke University, Duke University Health System or PDC employees.

It is critically important that we remain vigilant in maintaining COVID-19 safety precautions as we prepare for effective vaccines to become widely available. Over the holidays, we need to continue following CDC and NC DHHS guidance and wear our masks, physically distance ourselves, avoid unnecessary travel and be particularly careful when eating and drinking with others. You can find more information about enjoying the holidays safely at cdc.govpublichealth.nc.gov and dukehealth.org. You can also submit questions to stopcovid@duke.edu.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. We are tremendously thankful for all you are doing to keep yourself, your family and our community safe.

Sincerely,

Kyle Cavanaugh
Vice President, Administration

Carol Epling, MD, MSPH
Director, Employee Occupational Health and Wellness

Gail Shulby, RN, MA, CPPS
Chief of Staff to the Executive Vice President, Duke Health

Cameron R. Wolfe, MBBS (Hons), MPH, FIDSA
Associate Professor of Medicine, Infectious Diseases, Duke Health

Co-Leaders of the Duke COVID Vaccination Work Group