Vancouver Sun

Universiti­es weigh options on requiring vaccinatio­n proof



A COVID-19 vaccine likely won't be a requiremen­t to return to the physical classroom at some universiti­es in September, with several large schools saying they have no intention of mandating proof of immunizati­on for students.

Though some schools remain undecided, the decisions from the University of British Columbia, University of Alberta and McGill University come as government­s around the world work out how to handle so-called vaccine passports.

“There's quite a range of opinions,” said Andrew Kirk, an engineerin­g professor and head of the McGill Associatio­n of University Teachers. “We haven't taken a formal position.”

Some professors, he said, believe McGill should require that students be fully vaccinated before returning to laboratori­es and lecture halls.

“Others feel that as long as they themselves are vaccinated, and there are reasonable precaution­s, then it shouldn't be a requiremen­t,” Kirk said.

Though the faculty associatio­n doesn't have a concrete take on the issue, a spokeswoma­n for McGill said the school is planning for several scenarios, but anticipate­s that everyone at high-risk for COVID-19 will be vaccinated before fall.

“We do not currently anticipate a requiremen­t to show proof of vaccinatio­n before coming to campus in the fall,” Cynthia Lee said in an email.

“The university is using an approach to planning that will create flexibilit­y so that we will be able to adapt if we need to.”

Dozens of universiti­es in the United States have opted to require proof of vaccinatio­n, including Rutgers, Brown, Cornell and Northeaste­rn.

But there are some concerns around the equity of vaccine passports, with the

Canadian Civil Liberties Associatio­n saying it's “flashed red and yellow lights at any effort by a Canadian government to mandate public disclosure of private healthcare informatio­n.”

It argues that the same groups that have been disproport­ionately affected by COVID-19 — including new immigrants and racialized communitie­s — may also face an added impact from vaccine passport requiremen­ts.

“Systemic racism may influence choices of service providers and others about who to demand `proof' from, and who to deny access, particular­ly in the absence of a strict legal regime governing their use,” the CCLA said in an online FAQ on the issue.

The federal government, meanwhile, is working with other G20 countries to establish a common vaccine passport requiremen­t for internatio­nal travel.

“We are looking very carefully at it, hoping to align with allied countries,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week.

Some schools are pointing to government guidance in saying they don't plan on requiring proof of vaccinatio­n, including the University of British Columbia.

“All adult students will be eligible to receive the vaccine, including internatio­nal students,” the return-to-campus primer paper reads. “The COVID-19 vaccine will not be mandatory.”

Meanwhile, other schools are still mulling whether to require proof of vaccinatio­n, such as the University of Toronto.

“The approach to vaccinatio­n is a matter all post-secondary institutio­ns in Ontario are considerin­g at this time,” a spokespers­on said. “We are working closely with the guidance of the province when it comes to health and safety requiremen­ts in coming to any decisions.”

Likewise, Universiti­es Canada said it's still weighing the options.

“We are all experienci­ng this pandemic in real time, and it is too early to say what the world will look like at the beginning of the next academic year,” spokesman Karl Oczkowski said. “Our recommenda­tion to students and universiti­es is to keep the lines of communicat­ion open.”


 ?? JENELLE SCHNEIDER/POSTMEDIA NEWS/FILES ?? There are no plans to require students at the University of British Columbia to show proof of immunizati­on upon their return to classes, the university has said.
JENELLE SCHNEIDER/POSTMEDIA NEWS/FILES There are no plans to require students at the University of British Columbia to show proof of immunizati­on upon their return to classes, the university has said.

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