Majority of Nova Scotia post-secondary schools requiring COVID-19 vaccinations

Click to play video: 'Should post-secondary schools mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for students and staff?'
Should post-secondary schools mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for students and staff?
With COVID-19 vaccination rates lagging among Canadians aged 18 to 29, a debate is growing over whether post-secondary schools should mandate shots for students and staff on campus. As Mike Drolet explains, time is running out to make a decision – Jul 14, 2021

Cape Breton University is joining a growing list of Nova Scotia post-secondary institutions that are requiring its students, staff and faculty to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

In a letter to the university community on Thursday, President and vice-chancellor David Dingwall said he is “thrilled” to have employees and students back on campus in a couple weeks, and will implementing additional COVID-19 measures.

Anyone involved in varsity sports must be fully vaccinated as of Sept. 1.

Read more: Proof of vaccine requirements in N.S. raises privacy questions

All students, staff and faculty are “expected” to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 15. In order to be fully vaccinated, 14 days must have passed since the second dose. That means the second dose must be received by Oct. 1.

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“Everyone will be asked to submit proof of vaccination by that date. We are working with IT Services and Human Resources to finalize a system to implement this process. This will be communicated in the coming week,” the letter states.

Those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons will be tested twice a week for COVID-19 and must wear a mask.

Dingwall points out that post-secondary institutions won’t be required to keep social distancing requirements when the fall semester starts. However, he asks people to be “mindful of one another’s space.” And while masks will still be enforced in common areas, including classrooms, until the end of September, the protocol will be re-assessed after that.

The university is also making testing and vaccination readily available on campus when school starts in September “for as long as required.”

Some schools mandating vaccines, others opting not to

Most recently, Dalhousie University announced it was requiring students and staff to be vaccinated in the fall. Those who aren’t, or only have one dose, will have to be tested twice a week.

Dalhousie said prior to making this decision, the school polled its students, faculty and staff. More than 10,000 respondents took part and preliminary results showed more than 95 per cent of them are or plan to be fully vaccinated in the fall.

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Mount Saint Vincent University has set an Oct. 13 deadline for its community to be fully vaccinated. Those who aren’t will be tested twice a week, and rapid testing will be offered on campus.

Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) has a similar policy. Members of its community have until Oct. 12 to provide proof of vaccination.

As well, NSCAD University will require either proof of full vaccination before returning to campus, or proof of twice weekly regular testing.

Saint Mary’s University in Halifax initially said proof of vaccination would only be required for varsity athletes, students in club sports, coaches, staff in the athletics department and people living in residences.

However, it later expanded its requirement for proof of vaccination from all faculty, staff and students.

“The university will begin collecting this no later than September 3 to ensure the community is ready for the return of classes,” the school said in its latest update.

“Anyone who is not fully vaccinated or who refuses to provide proof of vaccination will be required to undergo COVID testing twice per week at on-campus facilities and will be given information about how to access on-campus vaccine clinics or local pharmacies.”

Read more: COVID-19 vaccine tracker - How many Canadians are vaccinated?

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St. Francis Xavier University (St. FX) has not mandated vaccinations at this point, however its teachers union has issued a statement calling on administration to make it mandatory.

“Members are worried about having classrooms at full capacity with poor ventilation, especially in some of the older buildings,” wrote Martin van Bommel, president of the St. Francis Xavier University Association of University Teachers.

“Some Members and their close contacts are immunocompromised or unable to receive the vaccine for medical reasons, and many Members have young children for whom the vaccine is not approved.”

On Aug. 26, the school updated its policy to say it is beginning consultations with the union and students’ union on a mandatory testing policy.

“While we strongly encourage regular asymptomatic testing among all members of the community, constituents who are fully vaccinated will be exempt from mandatory testing with proper proof of vaccination,” the university wrote.

Click to play video: 'Calls for a vaccine mandate at post-secondary institutions'
Calls for a vaccine mandate at post-secondary institutions

Meanwhile, Acadia University in Wolfville has confirmed with Global News it will not be implementing mandatory vaccination at this time.

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We have a comprehensive package of public health measures in place and are seeing high vaccination rates in our surveys of students and employees. Our back-to-campus plan and vaccination policy were developed and approved in consultation with Public Health,” wrote Sherri Turner, director of communications.

“The University recognizes that not everyone can or will be completely vaccinated before returning to campus in September, so recommended health and safety measures like mask wearing, regular testing, and physical distancing remain in place for the time being.”

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