The Omicron variant has now emerged within the Durham community, and it is expected to quickly become the dominant strain as COVID-19 cases continue a rapid spike across the country.
We are closely monitoring national, local and campus conditions in consultation with our infectious disease and public health specialists to determine if we need to make any changes in plans for the start of the Spring semester in January.
In the meantime, it is vital that we take the necessary steps to keep our campus and community safe. Effective immediately, Duke University, Duke University Health System and the Private Diagnostic Clinic will require all students and employees to provide proof of receiving the COVID-19 booster shot in January or as soon as they are eligible under CDC and state guidelines.
More than 20,000 faculty and staff and nearly 4,000 students have already received their booster shots. For those who have not already done so, we strongly encourage you to get your booster shot as soon as you are eligible and submit the documentation to update your records.
You can find options to get a booster shot anywhere in the country using Vaccines.gov. For those in or around Durham, you can visit the Duke COVID Vaccine website to find options at Duke facilities across the region. For those who are unable to receive a booster shot before returning to campus after the winter break, additional opportunities will be made available on campus in January.
The CDC has said that individuals can choose any of the three boosters now authorized regardless of their original shot. Duke medical experts suggest that anyone who received the J&J vaccine preferentially get a booster shot of either Pfizer or Moderna, which have been proven highly effective in preventing infection and severe illness.
Booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and free. While existing data suggests the Omicron variant appears to cause fewer cases of severe illness, it is also much more contagious than the Delta variant and can spread much more quickly, threatening our education, research, and healthcare activities. Getting the booster can help protect you, your friends, and your colleagues, as well as ensure that our hospital and clinical resources are available to support the community during a time of urgent need.
Guidelines and details for compliance will be shared in the coming days and will outline appropriate timelines consistent with current guidelines. But we wanted to provide you with advance notice of our plans so that you can take action as soon as possible.
These steps will help limit a potential outbreak on our campus and in our community and protect those most vulnerable to this virus. Additional information and resources, including options to get a booster shot, can found on the Duke COVID Vaccine website.
Provost and Jo Rae Wright University Professor
Vice President, Administration
This message is being sent to all Duke University students, faculty and staff.