Urgent Communication Regarding Booster Vaccination in the University of Virginia

January 7, 2022

To: Jim Ryan, President; Liz Magill, Provost; J.J. Davis, Chief Operating Officer; K. Craig Kent, M.D., Executive Vice President for Health Affairs, University of Virginia
Chief Executive Officer, UVA Health

We are members of the University of Virginia family – parents, students, faculty, staff, and alumni – urgently expressing our concern to you, in consultation with expert clinicians, to request a time critical modification to UC’s COVID-19 booster vaccine mandate.

All of us signing this letter, and especially our children who attend UVA, have already complied with the University’s prior immunization requirements and approved exemptions.

Additionally, we fully understand and empathize with the difficult position the University administration finds itself in during this pandemic.

Nevertheless, we have very serious safety concerns about the recent vaccine booster mandate at UVA. It’s clear that the University's administration has not exercised sufficient circumspection in creating clearly delineated, medically rational “off-ramps” from the booster mandates for those who are already well-immune to COVID-19. It is a serious problem that a medically unnecessary third booster shot could prove dangerous and irreparably harmful in such already well-immune individuals.

Of particular concern is the rising rate of heart injury to our young people, and particluarly young men in the 18-25 year-old age group. The risk of vaccine-induced myocarditis is four times higher in kids who have been previously infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Therefore, with this letter, we are respectfully requesting that the administration formally exempt the following four groups of student, faculty, and staff from a vaccine booster mandate:

1) Individuals who, within the span of the past 12-24 months, have had a natural COVID-19 infection AND two mandated mRNA vaccine shots (OR the single shot J&J vaccine). These individuals are by clinical definition, very robustly immune. In fact, Dr. Anthony Fauci has labeled such persons, “bullet proof” with “hybrid immunity”. To vaccinate such already well-immune persons with an added booster by administrative mandate is medically unnecessary and, thus, only risks serious harm – possibly irreparably to some.   

2) Individuals who had already received the prior mandated vaccinations, and who during this winter break experienced a “breakthrough infection” with the Delta or Omicron variants. Like individuals in the first category above, COVID-19 immunity in these persons also meets the definition of “bullet proof hybrid immunity”. Additionally, to vaccinate such very recently infected/convalescent persons with a medically unnecessary booster vaccine carries a risk of triggering a dangerous hyperinflammatory response. This should be avoided at all costs.

3) Individuals whose second dose of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine was less than 6 months ago. As you know, according to current FDA guidance, boosters are approved only for persons who underwent vaccination at least 5 months prior to boost. 

4) Individuals, vaccinated or previously infected, for whom a licensed physician has ordered a personalized serological evaluation and attests that robust and protective COVID-19 immunity is already present. 

We know that your intent in imposing a booster vaccine mandate at UVA is to protect the students, staff, faculty, and the community. However, in the rush to protect the University, we ask that you not lose sight of rational ethical reasoning - or of the very important principle of medical necessity and the mandate to first do no harm. It is a widely accepted truism that harm and irreparable damage to innocents in the minority, almost always resides in “one-size-fits-all” approaches to institutional and governmental policies and practices.

With this letter of petition, we ask that UVA urgently shift its booster mandate policy to automatically exempt the numerous members of our community who fall within the above four categories.

We plead for your clarity and purity of intent.

With respect,

Alyssa Blue

Kristine Burke, MD, ABFM, ABoIM

  • Bachelor of Science, University of California, Los Angeles (General Chemistry)
  • Doctor of Medicine, University of California, Davis School of Medicine
  • Medical Internship and Residency in Family and Community Medicine, UC Davis
  • Sports Medicine Fellowship, UC Berkely/UC Davis
  • Faculty Development Fellowship, UC San Francisco
  • Board Certified in Family Medicine and Sports Medicine
  • Board Certified in Integrative Medicine
  • Assistant Clinical Professor in Preventive Medicine
  • Physician, educator, and health advocate

Special thanks to Hooman Noorchashm MD, PhD whose original work on behalf of Boston College inspired this petition.

Kristine Burke, MD    Contact the author of the petition