McMaster University, Mohawk College join list of post-secondary institutions requiring proof of vaccination

McMaster University and Mohawk College are requiring all students, faculty, staff and visitors who will be on campus or attending university facilities this fall to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Redeemer University has no requirement, but says vaccinated people might have 'fewer barriers'

McMaster University's vaccine policy starts on Sept. 7. Those who aren't vaccinated will be required to submit negative COVID-19 tests, but only until Oct. 18. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

McMaster University and Mohawk College are requiring all students, faculty, staff and visitors who will be on campus or attending university facilities this fall to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

The schools both announced their decisions on Monday. McMaster attributed the policy to the spread of the Delta variant, while both institutions also pointed to rising infection rates of the virus in the community. 

At McMaster, people will have to upload "proof" that they're fully vaccinated or that they've been exempted by the university on a "validated human rights ground." The school said an app for reporting that information is being developed. 

Mohawk College says details for submitting proof will come no later than the end of next Monday. It will also recognize certain exemptions. 

"This decision has been made to maintain a healthy and safe environment for everyone to learn, teach and work in-person at the college as the COVID-19 pandemic continues," said a letter from Mohawk College president and CEO Ron J. McKerlie. 

A letter posted on the McMaster University website, addressed from president David Farrar and provost and vice-president academic Susan Tighe, noted that vaccinations combined with other public health measures are the best defences against the virus. 

It said that "recent surveys" showed 94 per cent of students and 93 per cent of faculty and staff respondents said they'd be vaccinated by the start of term. 

"These additional measures support what our community is telling us is a strong commitment to vaccination," the letter said. 

McMaster University and Mohawk College say they will recognize both Health Canada- or World Health Organization-approved vaccines. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

The schools will recognize both Health Canada- or World Health Organization-approved vaccines.

McMaster giving grace period for unvaccinated

The decision follows other universities in Ontario that have made vaccines mandatory, such as University of Ottawa and Queen's University, as well as those in other provinces, such as University of Saskatoon and University of Regina in Saskatchewan. 

It also expands on earlier rules by McMaster University and Mohawk College, which required certain individuals — like varsity athletes and students in residences — to be vaccinated. 

The requirement at McMaster kicks in at the start of school on Sept. 7. 

It also applies to those who work or have placements in hospitals or health facilities, though the school notes they "must also follow any requirements of those organizations."

Between Sept. 7 and Oct. 18., those who aren't fully vaccinated or haven't received an exemption will be required to submit proof of a negative COVID-19 test to McMaster twice a week. It will be reported on the same system as the vaccination status, and testing will be available on campus. 

The university said that rule will be in place to allow time for those who aren't able to be fully vaccinated by the start of fall term and for those who are requesting accommodations. Applicable exemptions would include if someone is medically unable to receive the vaccine. 

"Health information will be secure and will be kept confidentially within the university with very limited access," the letter said, noting data will be used "to provide information on overall trends."

Only "select staff" in Employee Health in McMaster Human Resources and the McMaster Student Wellness Centre will be able to access individuals' vaccine records. 

People will still be required to complete a daily check-in on the McMaster app before attending campus. 

Mohawk College allows 1 dose until Oct. 15

As of Sept. 7, all those attending Mohawk College facilities will have to confirm they have had at least one dose of the vaccine. The second dose has to be received by Oct. 15, with proof of full vaccination no later than Oct. 30. 

Exemptions will also be granted to people "who have either a medical accommodation or an objection based on disability or creed."

Mohawk College will start mandating at least one dose of the vaccine in September, but will bump that up to requiring full vaccination in October. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

People with approved exemptions will have to be tested for the virus "regularly" and to be on campus, it said, though more information on that process will also come by Aug. 23. 

The requirement will be in place throughout the 2021-2022 academic year, it said. 

More information for each school is available at the Mohawk College and McMaster University frequently-asked-questions pages. 

Redeemer University not requiring vaccines, for now 

A spokesperson from Redeemer University says it continues to "strongly encourage" its students, faculty, and staff to get vaccinated.

The university said its "unique household residence model, a relatively small student body and very small class sizes" make it difference than other institutions. 

However, the spokesperson noted that "should the provincial government or public health determine that post-secondary institutions must make vaccines mandatory, Redeemer will follow suit." 

Those who aren't fully vaccinated "may have additional scenarios where COVID-19 testing and other health and safety protocols are required as per current Public Health policies, including quarantine and isolation." Those who are vaccinated might "enjoy fewer barriers."