Several U.S. colleges to require COVID-19 vaccination. What have Canadian schools said?

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Trudeau reassures COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada are ‘safe’ following mixed messaging from NACI
WATCH: Trudeau reassures COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada are ‘safe’ following mixed messaging from NACI – May 4, 2021

As universities across Canada weigh the option of reopening their doors to students come the fall semester, one question is top of mind for many students — will I need a COVID-19 vaccine to return to campus?

A number of colleges in the United States have already stated their students will be required to be vaccinated against the virus in order to attend in-person classes.

In fact, a tally from CNN found over 100 American schools have said they will require students be inoculated. Among them are Harvard University, Washington State University and the University of Portland. 

Most of Canada’s universities shuttered their doors in 2020, during the first wave of the pandemic and pivoted to offering online-only classes. While reopening plans are still unclear, vaccination efforts across the country have ramped up in the last several weeks.

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Will Canadian post-secondary students need to be vaccinated? Here’s a look at what some of the country’s most prominent universities have said.

What have Canadian universities said?

So far, none of Canada’s largest universities have signalled they will make receiving a COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for their students.

In a statement emailed to Global News, a spokesperson for McGill University in Quebec said the school “will be returning to in-person activities to the fullest extent possible beginning in Fall 2021.”

The school said there is a “very high degree of certainty that all at-risk people will be vaccinated before we start the Fall semester.”

The university said it “encourages people to follow the Quebec Government’s vaccination directives.”

“Therefore, we do not currently anticipate a requirement to show proof of vaccination before coming to campus in the Fall.”

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The University of British Columbia said it is following the province’s Go Forward Guidelines as it plans for the Fall semester.

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The guidelines say all adult students will be eligible to receive the vaccine, including international students.

“The COVID-19 vaccine will not be mandatory,” the document reads. “There are no vaccines in Canada that are mandatory.”

The University of Alberta will not be making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for its students or employees either.

According to a Q and A posted on the university’s website, the university said it “strongly encourages all U of A members to get vaccinated as soon as they become eligible, provided they are able to do so.

However the university said “at this point,” employees, students, contractors and visitors do not need proof of immunization to work or study at the school.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson at the University of Toronto, said the school is “working closely with the guidance of the province when it comes to health and safety requirements in coming to any decisions.”

Global News also reached out to The University of Ottawa and Dalhousie University for comment, but did not hear back by time of publication.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases faculty member at the University of Toronto said he thinks making vaccines mandatory for students is a “very reasonable thing.”

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He said there is precedent for this, too.

“Lots of schools have proof of vaccination for other communicable diseases,” he said, pointing to measles as an example.

“You can’t send kids to school without evidence of measles vaccination,” he said. “This may be another vaccine where many schools will decide to have proof of vaccination.”

“And honestly, I think it’s a very reasonable thing to do,” he continued. “I would not be adverse to that at all.”

What’s more, Bogoch said looking at the number of vaccines that are expected to land in Canada in the next few months, and the pace at which Canada is administering vaccines, he thinks it’s “very reasonable to suggest that people 18 years of age and up will have every opportunity to have at least the first shot if not a second before it’s time to return to classes in the fall.”

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According to Health Canada between May 10 and 23, Canada is forecasted to receive 2,092,800 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 shot, in addition to 18.3 million doses of the vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech between May 3 and July 4.

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Ultimately, Bogoch said he is interested to see how this plays out.

“It’ll be very interesting to see what schools choose to do it, which schools choose not to do it (and) where people choose to go to school because of that — if that even impacts people’s decision,” he said. “It’s going to be very interesting.”

To date, 15,646,182 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered across the country. That means so far, 37.9 per cent of the Canadian population has received at least one dose.

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