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COVID Update

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

As planning for a full return to campus proceeds, we have received many questions about how the health and safety of the University community will be protected.  Stated simply, we will build upon the measures that we have taken since the beginning of this pandemic. Our protocols and practices have been highly successful, with very limited transmission of the coronavirus on campus. As its availability continues to expand, COVID vaccination will complement the other aspects of our pandemic control strategy, providing far more comprehensive protection for the community.

The three vaccines currently approved for use in the United States – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen – are highly effective at preventing both infection with, and transmission of, COVID. If you have been vaccinated, your risk of infection is remarkably low even if those around you are unvaccinated.  For the few people who become infected with COVID despite being vaccinated, the vaccine helps prevent serious illness. Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, just as wearing a mask does. Current data suggest that the three U.S.-approved vaccines also work against the common variants that have emerged. 

We strongly advise COVID vaccination for all members of our community as soon as you are eligible.

A high vaccination rate in our community, particularly among our students, is a critical component to the University’s plan for a return to full in-person learning, research, and other activities on campus in the fall. We are actively discussing with University leaders and experts multiple strategies to ensure that our community is well protected against the virus, including the possibility that vaccination will be a requirement for returning students and other community members.

President Biden has announced that every adult in the U.S. will be eligible to be vaccinated as of April 19.  Please make plans to get vaccinated as soon as you are eligible, whether you are in Massachusetts, another state, or another country. Vaccine will be available from multiple sources, including mass vaccination sites in each state, local pharmacies, primary care physicians, and community-based sites. Whether you are located here in Massachusetts or elsewhere, we have more information on where you can receive vaccine on the University’s vaccine webpage

While Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) is a partner in the Massachusetts distribution plan, only limited vaccine supplies have been distributed to Harvard and other Massachusetts colleges and universities. As a result, you may be able to obtain vaccine more quickly through other sources. HUHS continues to be prepared to administer vaccine to increasing numbers of our community if the state makes more vaccine available to us. If we do begin to receive larger supplies of vaccine, we will take steps to make vaccination as easy as possible for all members of our community.

For the thousands of staff, faculty, students, and researchers who have already been vaccinated, thank you. In order to monitor progress toward full vaccination within our community, please send a clear copy of your completed vaccination card to HUHS at HUHS keeps this information secure and confidential. People vaccinated by HUHS do not need to submit this information, since it is already recorded.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its travel guidance for individuals who have been fully vaccinated. Current University travel guidance is under review as we consider the CDC’s recommendations and their implications for the health and safety of the Harvard community and the broader public. We understand the strong desire to resume broader travel that contributes to our academic work, as well as personal travel, and that such travel requires advance planning. We expect to announce updates to the University’s travel guidance soon.

With your help, we have been able to sharply limit the rate of COVID infections in our community during the past year. Your commitment to Keep Keeping Harvard Healthy, including by getting vaccinated, is critical to the health and safety of every member of our community, and to our ability to realize our plans for a fall semester that will look more “normal.” Thank you, and please keep doing what you’re doing.


Alan M. Garber

Giang T. Nguyen
Executive Director, Harvard University Health Services