Unlike many U.S. schools, B.C. won’t require vaccines on post-secondary campuses

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No plans for ‘vaccine passports’ on B.C. university campuses
Despite the fact some American universities will be requiring students to prove they've been vaccinated in order to attend classes, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says she won't be recommending it here. Richard Zussman reports – May 5, 2021

British Columbia will not require students and staff on post-secondary campuses to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but will be encouraging it.

Earlier this week the University of Washington announced plans to mandate students to receive a COVID immunization before returning to school in September.

“We do not have a mandatory vaccination program for anything in this country,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

“We will be ensuring vaccine is available at campus services and others across the province. It is an important piece especially for those in residences. We will be encouraging it.”

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B.C. post-secondary schools could reopen campuses in fall

Post-secondary institutions across the province are getting ready to resume in-person learning in the fall. The bulk of the 2020-21 school year was spent doing virtual learning.

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On March 8, 2021, Henry advised public post-secondary institutions to begin planning for a full return to on-campus teaching, learning and research in September 2021.

Henry has expressed confidence that the combination of mass immunization and safety protocols will support the safe resumption of on-campus activities.

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British Columbia has created a primer as an early planning guide to help ensure a safe return to campus.

It suggests campus mask policies and constant hand washing, but will not be encouraging physical distancing measures.

The province is making the assumption COVID-19 transmission will be low by the fall, and more importantly, serious infections will be uncommon.

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Public health is also building the plan under the assumption all adults in B.C. will have had an opportunity to receive at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before July 1, 2021, while many will have received two doses by the end of August.

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“Daily self-assessment for COVID-19 symptoms will continue,” the primer reads.

“Based on guidance from the provincial health officer and experience to date within B.C. and other jurisdictions, controlled environments such as post-secondary educational settings are lower-risk sites for COVID-19 transmission.”

The schools will be working with public health to update the plan before students get back to campus in late August and early September.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said universities and colleges are just part of a broader incentive program to get the vaccine. In Seattle, vaccinated baseball fans will be allowed to sit close together.

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“Here is an incentive, you will be able to go to college if you are vaccinated. This incentives are continuing,” Inslee said.

Most college-aged individuals will be eligible to receive a first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine in June. The second shot would likely come once school has resumed.

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The province will also ensure students coming from outside the province have access to the shot and international students are thoroughly screened before coming back to school.

“Some federal travel restrictions may remain in place in the fall. It is anticipated that students entering Canada to study will continue to be permitted entry if they are attending a designated learning  institution with a COVID-19 readiness plan approved by the province,” the primer reads.

“These students will be required to continue following federal testing and quarantine requirements in place at the time of entry into Canada.”

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