Nine Alberta post-secondary institutions are increasing their COVID-19 protocols by requiring everyone attending campus to be fully vaccinated against the disease.
In a joint news release Monday morning, the University of Alberta, University of Calgary, University of Lethbridge, MacEwan University, Medicine Hat College, Mount Royal University, NAIT, SAIT and NorQuest College announced they will introduce a vaccination mandate.
“Vaccinations are the safest and most effective way to protect communities from COVID-19’s damaging effects,” read the joint news release. “At Alberta’s post-secondary institutions, vaccinations have proven to be a critical part of our fall safety plans.
“Today, we are building on previously announced measures by strengthening the role that vaccinations will play on post-secondary campuses moving forward.”
The following protocols will be implemented at all nine schools:
- Campus community members and visitors will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend campuses
- Campus community members and visitors will be required to provide proof of vaccination
- Rapid testing will no longer be accepted as an alternative to vaccination, except for campus community members who cannot be vaccinated based on medical or other protected grounds outlined in the Alberta Human Rights Act. These individuals should follow the self-declaration exemption procedures already in place at their post-secondary institution and will be reasonably accommodated
The schools said they are working together and taking a coordinated approach “to ensure safety on our campuses for students, faculty, staff and visitors.”
“It is an approach to health and safety that is best suited for the learning, studying, researching, working and living environments of our campuses. The safety of the large and diverse communities of post-secondary campuses remains the top consideration when making both short-term and long-term plans throughout the pandemic.”
The schools are still working on implementation dates and details for the new measures, which will vary from institution to institution based on their specific needs and policies.
The University of Alberta’s vaccine mandate will come into effect on Nov. 1, 2021.
“Everyone who comes onto our campus, including visitors, will be required to be fully vaccinated,” U of A president Bill Flanagan said Monday.
“Safety has always been our top priority at the university — the safety of all members of the university community and we know that vaccinations are the best possible way in which we can protect ourselves and protect members of the university community.”
Flanagan said the vaccine mandate is also about preserving the in-person experience on campus, adding about 80 per cent of classes this fall have returned to in-person learning.
The details of how exactly the university will track the vaccination status of students, staff, faculty and visitors are still being worked out.
“It’s a big job, no question, and we’re still working out the details of how we track this. We’re going to be requiring that everyone be vaccinated as of Nov. 1 so we do have some time in order to set up the process by which people will verify their vaccination status. We’re going to be making this as easy as possible for all members of the university community,” Flanagan said.
The president added over 90 per cent of the university population is already fully vaccinated.
“I’m really encouraged by the very high numbers within the university community of people who are already vaccinated, including our students — over 90 per cent — and these new measures will ensure that we get to 100 per cent of our university community.”
The University of Calgary said visitors to campus will be required to provide proof of vaccination status effective Oct. 1, 2021. All students, staff and faculty will need to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 1, 2022 to be on campus.
NAIT said it informed the school community that starting Nov. 8, everyone coming to its campuses will need to be fully vaccinated. NAIT students, staff, contractors and visitors will need to receive their second dose on or before Oct. 24 to be considered fully vaccinated and will need to provide proof of vaccination.
In a statement Monday, SAIT said its vaccine mandate will be implemented on Jan. 1, 2022.
“Having recently announced the implementation of a COVID-19 Vaccination Verification and Rapid Testing Program this fall, alongside our existing COVID-19 case management, health promotion and awareness, mask requirement and enhanced cleaning protocols, SAIT is well-positioned to implement this change in the new year. SAIT will continue to assess the ongoing health situation in our province and make the necessary adjustments to ensure the health and safety of our community.”
MRU said its vaccine mandate will also come into effect on Jan. 1, 2022. On that date, rapid testing will no longer be accepted as an alternative to being fully vaccinated, except where exceptions are made under the Alberta Human Rights Act.
The new protocols are a shift from the original back-to-campus plans laid out by some of the schools in mid-August.
At that time, the universities of Alberta, Calgary and Lethbridge said those who were not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 would be required to undergo rapid testing and receive a negative result before participating in in-person activities on campus.
Alberta NDP advanced education critic David Eggen said the fact post-secondary schools had to make this decision is “another crashing failure of the leadership from (Premier) Jason Kenney.”
“The steps these schools are taking to keep students, staff, and communities safe are the right thing to do. I applaud them for taking this action as vaccine passports are a proven way to raise vaccination rates which will keep people safe and reduce the critical pressure on the health-care system,” Eggen said in a statement.
“Post-secondary schools were hung out to dry to make these decisions. Their focus should be on the education of our future leaders, and not having to make public health decisions without the evidence that Jason Kenney has at his fingertips, and is refusing to follow.
“Jason Kenney must implement vaccine passports province-wide to protect Alberta families and businesses.”
The Alberta government has said it does not have plans to introduce a province-wide proof-of-vaccination program, and that decisions on vaccine mandates will be left up to individual workplaces and businesses.
“When it comes to the question of whether it’s going to be government mandated, we have — as we’ve communicated before, (as the) premier said before — we are right now enabling those workplaces and businesses to be able to make those decisions,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro said during a news conference Friday.
“We are going to continue to look at the evidence on how that affects our vaccine uptake. If there is evidence, … as we see the vaccine passports, as they are enabled in other provinces, I’m happy to look at that information.
“But at this time, we have made the decision for these decisions (to) be led by those workplaces and by those businesses.”