COVID-19: Western University update shows 98% of students, 97% of faculty are vaccinated

Western University's University Community Centre in London, Ont. Andrew Graham / Global News

A COVID-19 vaccination update released by Western University in London, Ont., indicates rising vaccination rates among staff, faculty, students and those living in residence.

The update says 97 per cent of faculty and staff are vaccinated, along with 98 per cent of students.

In residence, where vaccination became mandatory in May, 99 per cent of students are vaccinated.

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“Since Western and its affiliated colleges, Brescia, Huron and King’s, launched our proof of vaccination effort on August 26, we’ve received responses from more than 46,000 members of our campus community,” the update read.

But not every member of Western agrees with the school’s vaccination policy.

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In a since-deleted YouTube video, Julie Ponesse, an ethics professor at Western’s affiliated college Huron University College, claimed she is facing “imminent dismissal after 20 years on the job.”

Ponesse says she has chosen to not get the COVID-19 vaccine.

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“My school employs me to be an authority on the subject of ethics … I’m here to tell you it’s ethically wrong to coerce someone to take a vaccine,” said Ponesse. “I’ve had plenty of vaccines in my life, but I’ve never been forced to take one.”

The YouTube video, which was deleted but reuploaded onto a channel that does not belong to Ponesse, was uploaded Wednesday and has been viewed more than 5,800 times.

The video ends with text, saying, “Dr. Ponesse was dismissed from her position on September 7, 2021.”

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Meanwhile, another ethics professor at Western University is sharing his views about the school’s vaccination mandate as well as Ponesse’s video.

“I disagree with her,” said Maxwell Smith in a Twitter thread published Wednesday night.

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“She calls herself an ‘authority on ethics.’ If she deserves this title, I must as well,” the thread read. “The strength of a position in ethics comes from the support provided via reasons & arguments, not that it’s uttered by an ethicist. And her reasons used to support her position are distorted by falsehoods & concern areas about which she has no apparent expertise.”

“To be clear: it’s certainly possible to make a sound ethical argument against vaccine mandates,” the thread continued. “This just isn’t it, & we should treat claims supported by appeals to “authority in ethics” with suspicion.”

In a joint letter sent on Tuesday, Western University president Alan Shepard and University Students’ Council (USC) president Zamir Fakirani urged students to follow COVID-19-related health and safety protocols, warning that a failure to do so “puts our entire year in jeopardy.”

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Shepard and Fakirani state that many students have been acting responsibly and respectfully but “this past weekend there were several large gatherings near campus — along with some aggressive behaviour that put the safety of others at risk.”

“We want to be clear: if this activity continues, the academic year we have so carefully planned will not happen,” the letter read. “In-person learning with fellow students, interaction with professors, extra-curricular activities, athletics and all the things that make your student experience great will be lost.”

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In a statement, Huron University College told 980 CFPL that as part of the school’s vaccination policy, “all community members were required to submit proof of vaccination or an exemption before the policy came into effect on Sept. 7, 2021… Those who do not submit this proof will not be allowed on campus.”

“At this time, no one at Huron has been dismissed as a result of this policy,” the statement continued.

Western says those who have not yet submitted vaccination status are not permitted to be on campus and are required to provide their information as soon as possible.

For those with exemptions or who are not yet fully vaccinated, Western says its vaccination and testing centre is open for students, staff and faculty.

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–With files from 980 CFPL’s Jacquelyn LeBel

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