Full vaccination — and proof — to be mandatory at 9 post-secondary institutions in Alberta
U of A, U of C, plus colleges, NAIT and SAIT all strengthen COVID-19 measures
The University of Alberta, the University of Calgary and seven other Alberta post-secondary institutions will require all students, staff and visitors to be fully vaccinated to attend campus, building on previously announced plans.
Enhanced safety measures against COVID-19 have been adopted by the U of A, the U of C, University of Lethbridge, MacEwan University, Mount Royal University, NAIT, SAIT, Medicine Hat College and NorQuest College, the institutions said Monday in a joint news release.
Students, staff and visitors will also be required to provide proof of their vaccination status and rapid testing will no longer be accepted as an alternative to vaccination, the news release said.
Rapid testing will only be acceptable "for campus community members who cannot be vaccinated based on medical or other protected grounds outlined in the Alberta Human Rights Act," it said.
The province said institutions can make such decisions on their own.
"There is no legislative mechanism to compel institutions to mandate vaccinations on campus," a spokesperson for the ministry of Advanced Education said in a statement.
"The minister strongly supports institutional autonomy and is confident the administration and the board of governors of each institution will make the best operational decisions they deem necessary."
Opposition NDP advanced education critic David Eggen said proof of vaccination should be required province-wide.
"Post-secondary schools were hung out to dry to make these decisions," Eggen said Monday in a news release.
"Their focus should be on the education of our future leaders, and not having to make public health decisions without the evidence that [Premier] Jason Kenney has at his fingertips and is refusing to follow."
Tim Rahilly, president and vice chancellor of Mount Royal University (MRU), said it was important for the institutions to come out as a united front because the nine schools represent the majority of students in the province.
"Moving together and having that kind of consistency really helps us as we move forward during uncertain times," he said in an interview.
Implementation dates and details for the new measures will vary from institution to institution according to their specific needs and policies, the news release said.
Rahilly said that for MRU, the mandate will be in effect starting in the new year.
Bill Flanagan, the U of A's president and vice-chancellor, said the new measures will help the university "preserve that in-person experience.
"We know that this is the best possible way to ensure a safe university community," Flanagan said in an interview.
The measures go into effect at the U of A on Nov. 1.
Students, faculty and staff will need to receive their second doses of vaccine two weeks before that date, and will need to provide proof of vaccination. Rapid testing will no longer be accepted as an alternative to vaccination starting Nov. 1.
Flanagan said the decision was made to move away from rapid testing because it is far less effective than vaccines, and that it was unsustainable to maintain a rapid testing program over a long period of time.
Flanagan said he's had the chance to meet with some student leaders and faculty and staff associations about the new measures. He said there's "huge support" for the initiative.
Ed McCauley, president and vice-chancellor at the U of C, echoed Flanagan's sentiment on rapid testing.
"They make the university safe, but they're also complex to administer and temporary in nature, and they do have costs," McCauley said in an interview.
"So in the long run, it's clear that a vaccine requirement is how we move past COVID-19."
With files from Lucie Edwardson