If you’re planning on attending one of the big three post-secondary institutions in Winnipeg this year, you’ll need to get vaccinated first.
The universities of Manitoba and Winnipeg, as well as Red River College, have all stipulated that staff and students will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The U of M and RRC are implementing phased approaches for those who have yet to be vaccinated, but by the end of October, everyone attending either school will need to have had both of their shots.
Scott Forbes, president of the Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations (MOFA), said pressure from faculty and their representatives help lead to the decisions.
“We are delighted that a strong, clear message from faculty was heard by university administrators who eventually reached the correct decision,” said Forbes.
“Faculty and students who make up the core of the university have mutual interests such as a safe learning and working environment for everyone.
“There is a lesson to be learned by the government of the day which is that you can’t run a university without consulting with and listening to faculty and academic staff.”
In a statement Thursday, interim U of W chancellor James Currie said that in addition to the vaccination mandate, his school’s return-to-campus safety plan also includes a mask mandate, ventilation upgrades and enhanced cleaning.
“Our vaccination requirement may inconvenience a few people, but it will give peace of mind to many.
“Above all, we believe it is the right thing to do. Hopefully, this mandate will motivate everyone in our community to consider the safety of themselves and others so that we may all feel positive about returning to campus,” said Currie.
The downtown university’s decision was based in part on a survey that showed almost 80 per cent of U of W staff and 72 per cent of students support a vaccine mandate.
U of M president Michael Benarroch said his school sought recommendations from Public Health and unions representing faculty and staff, as well as legal advice, before going ahead with a mandate, also announced Thursday.
“We need to be mindful that UM operates like a small city,” he said.
“We will be increasing our on-campus activity throughout the fall, and by January, when we bring all students, staff and faculty back, we will be integrating about 40,000 people from across the province and globe.
“When we consider the activity that takes place on our campuses — labs, theatre, musical performances, patient care, athletics, contact sports, large classes, research, etc. — it is clear that requiring everyone to be vaccinated will ensure the safest possible environment.”
At RRC, there will be a staged approach for vaccine requirements, with first doses required by the beginning of the fall term on Sept. 10 and second doses by Oct. 17.
The school — Manitoba’s largest college — said it will help remove barriers to vaccine access by making vaccinations available on-site at all of its campuses, as well as giving staff paid leave to get the shot or take a dependent to a vaccine appointment.
Other post-secondary institutions across the province have announced similar mandates, including Canadian Mennonite University, University College of the North, and Assiniboine Community College.
Brandon University said it will implement a vaccine policy, but isn’t requiring students to be vaccinated before classes start next month. Instead, vaccination ‘as soon as possible’ is being encouraged, and the university will be moving toward a fully-vaccinated campus throughout the year.