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Duke University to require student COVID-19 vaccinations

Students must be vaccinated before they can enroll in fall classes. Accommodations will be permitted for medical and religious exemptions.

DURHAM, N.C. — Duke University will require all new and returning students to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination before they can enroll in Fall 2021 semester classes, Duke University President Vincent Price announced in an open letter Friday evening.

"Looking ahead, we know that widespread vaccination will be the only way to facilitate a return to normal and robust campus life," he wrote. 

The policy will cover all undergraduate, graduate, and professional students in all degree programs. 

In his letter, Price says the school will make accommodations for documented medical and religious exemptions. 

"The past fourteen months have been among the most difficult and exhausting in our university’s history," he wrote. "Under great stress, and often at great peril, we have remained committed to each other—and to our missions of discovery, research, and patient care."

Duke is the first university in North Carolina to require proof of vaccination and is one of only 12 universities in the country with the requirement. 

Other universities, instead, are focusing on encouraging and incentivizing vaccinations. North Carolina State University is offering the shots right on campus and says with demand so high, a vaccine mandate hasn't been necessary. 

For public health officials, getting college students vaccinated is critical because they can be drivers of community spread. But after more than a year of uncertainty, there is hope for better days ahead. 

Duke is encouraging students to book coronavirus vaccination appointments either through the school's available appointment or through other providers.  

It's worth noting that Duke is a private university. One challenge would be clear if public institutions in North Carolina decided to follow in Duke's footsteps: they would need permission from the state to mandate COVID-19 vaccines from students. 

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