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Canadian universities move towards vaccine mandate

Canadian vaccination rate
The Canadian vaccination rate is among the highest in the world. More than 70% of the eligible population are fully vaccinated. Source: Dave Chan/AFP

The Canadian vaccination rate is among the highest globally, and the country is gradually moving towards stricter vaccine policies. This includes Canadian universities, which are refining their vaccine requirements as the country enters its fourth wave of COVID-19.

If you’re heading there or already in your university, here’s an overview of what you should know about the Canadian vaccination rate as well as vaccine mandates at Canadian universities:

Vaccine mandates vary

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms recently released the 2021 Campus Vaccine Index to help educate students, parents and the public with the campus COVID-19 vaccination policies of 61 public universities in Canada.

“Canada-wide, the favoured approach among universities is to let students, staff, faculty and campus visitors make their own health decisions without threats to their liberties. As of August 17, 65% of Canadian universities (40/61 universities) do not have any mandatory vaccination policies in place,” it said.

Universities in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Yukon have not instituted any campus-wide mandatory vaccination policies. They note that at least one university situated in each of the provinces of Saskatchewan, Ontario and Nova Scotia have a mandatory vaccination policy.

They also found that 17 out of 20 or 85% of Ontario universities have instituted a mandatory vaccine policy. At some schools, students can opt for twice-weekly testing regimes instead of the jab.

Both of Saskatchewan’s universities have mandatory vaccine policies in place. The Justice Centre’s position is that getting a COVID-19 vaccination should not be a prerequisite to accessing postsecondary education in Canada for Canadians.

Canadian vaccination rate

Even as the Canadian vaccination rate rises, concern for the Delta variant remains on top of mind. Source: Daniel Slim/AFP

The University of Guelph in Ontario is among the Canadian universities that have moved towards a vaccine mandate. The university announced on its website that as of September 7, those over the age of 12 who wish to access university buildings or managed facilities must submit proof of vaccination against COVID-19. This would enable the university to provide safe working and learning spaces for everyone, it said.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the university has continued to monitor and respond to new information — including government and public health directives and discussions with public health experts, other universities and our U of G community,” it said. “With emerging information about the Delta variant and modelling showing that we have entered a fourth wave of COVID-19, we refined our vaccination requirements.”

Among the Canadian universities that have also made vaccine mandates include the University of Alberta, McMaster University, the University of Toronto and the University of Ottawa.

Some educators argue that it is essential for Canadian universities and colleges to adopt mandatory vaccination policies. On The Conversation, Western University’s associate professor Samuel E. Trosow and research assistant Julie Lowe said campus mandates are not forced vaccinations.

“Mandates offer choices: receive or decline the vaccine. Employees who decline must be reassigned to off-campus work or take a leave of absence. Students who decline must enrol in online classes or take the semester off,” they said.

“These options may be inconvenient and unappealing to some, but as a recent US decision denying an injunction against a vaccine mandate stated: ‘This hard choice doesn’t amount to coercion.’ In short, nobody is forced to undergo a medical procedure against their wishes.”

canadian vaccination rate

Incoming international students at Canadian universities will still need a quarantine plan ready, even if you don’t use it. Source: Cole Burston/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

Canadian vaccination rate

Reports suggest that Canada’s vaccination rate is among the highest in the world. Government data shows that 82.12% of the population aged 12 and older have received at least one dose, while 72.99% are fully vaccinated. The Trudeau government is pushing for a harder stance on vaccine policies.

On August 13, the government said it would ban people from boarding any plane, train or cruise ship in Canada unless they were fully vaccinated, reported The Wall Street Journal. The government is also compelling 300,000 federal employees to get shots, as well as employees of airlines and railways, it said.