As the Duke community continues to do what it can to stay safe from COVID-19, it’s now time to take a similar stance against annual influenza by getting vaccinated.
The vaccination against flu is the best protection for colleagues, students, patients, visitors and loved ones. Consistent with this belief and Duke’s core values, the flu vaccination will be required for Duke University staff and faculty working on-site to better protect our community from influenza in light of COVID-19. All faculty and staff in the School of Medicine, School of Nursing and Duke University Health System are required to get the annual vaccination against the influenza each year.
“The double-whammy of flu and COVID occurring is a bad situation,” said Dr. Carol Epling, director of Duke Employee Occupational Health and Wellness (EOHW). “We want people to be as immune as they can be. If people get the flu vaccine, their body is prepared to avoid a very severe case of the flu, just like how the COVID vaccines are doing for us as well.”
Influenza vaccinations are available for at no charge for staff and faculty beginning Sept. 30 at five Duke locations. To comply with COVID-19 physical distancing requirements, staff and faculty must make appointments for vaccinations at clinics at Duke South, Duke Medical Pavilion or Blue Devil Tower. Walk-in clinics are available for employees at Duke Regional Hospital and Duke Raleigh Hospital.
Duke staff and faculty members who get vaccinated outside of Duke’s employee clinics, even in a Duke Primary Care clinic, must submit official documentation through Duke’s VaxTrax system.
The deadline to be vaccinated, or to have an approved exemption, is 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 9. Employees seeking a medical or religious exemption must have completed paperwork submitted before Monday, Nov. 1.
Certain Duke Primary Care locations are offering extended and weekend hours to accommodate children and other dependents of Duke employees. There is no copay for the vaccination or visit unless the patient sees a doctor.
Dependents do not have to be covered by a Duke health plan to receive the vaccine. Flu vaccinations are covered by most health plans, and a self-pay discount is offered to patients who do not have insurance coverage.
This year’s quadrivalent vaccine protects against four strains of influenza. An egg-free option is also available at EOHW clinics and at Duke Primary Care locations.
Seasonal flu activity often begins as early as October and can continue to occur as late as May. It often peaks between December and January. With COVID-19 leaving many schools and workplaces functioning remotely, influenza wasn’t much of a threat. In North Carolina, there were just seven total flu deaths, down from 186 during the 2019-20 flu season and 203 from the 2018-19 flu season.
Duke experts are concerned that with more in-person activity, the threat of influenza will return.
“We’re worried about the return of closer contact with other people,” Epling said. “This year, because people are doing more with other people and possibly not wearing their masks regularly, there’s a greater risk to transmit flu and other respiratory viruses. With those close contact and unmasked activities, we have the risk of not just transmission of COVID, but also the risk of transmission of flu.”
The full schedule and list of vaccination sites, as well as information on reservations, is available here.