Western University mandating COVID-19 booster shots, masking ahead of fall term

Western University is implementing vaccine and masking requirements this September for students, faculty, staff and some visitors.

Masks will be required in classrooms and seminar rooms for first five weeks

A flag flutters on the breeze at Western University in London, Ont. (Colin Butler/CBC)

Western University is implementing vaccine and masking requirements this September for students, faculty, staff and some visitors. 

The London, Ont., university is requiring those returning to campus to be vaccinated for COVID-19 twice with an additional booster. There is also a mask mandate in place in classrooms and seminar rooms for the first five weeks of class followed by a reassessment. 

"Considering that the general population is at 50 per cent in terms of their booster shot, we think it's not too much of an effort to get where we want to get," said Florentine Strzelczyk, provost and vice-president (academic). 

The policy takes effect as of Monday, however the campus community has until October 1 to submit current proof of vaccination to the university. 

Access to vaccination clinic

A media release from Western Communications says students living in residence will need to get their booster dose before moving in. Western will offer a two-week grace period and access to the campus vaccination clinic to those unable to get a booster before they arrive. 

International students and those arriving from outside of Canada must follow federal vaccination requirements for entry to Canada. 

Western Communications said the decision for the policy was made after extensive consultation with its science experts and community. 

"We want to come together and have a term that is not interrupted by pivoting back and forth depending on how the situation looks like with COVID," said Strzelczyk. 

"COVID is expected to spiral of course, as we all know. We don't know when that is going to happen. We want to ensure we have a safe return to campus because unlike other institutions, our in-person experience is very important to us," added Strzelczyk. 

The school says people who don't follow the policy or who submit fraudulent documentation will be subject to discipline in accordance with the Code of Student Conduct. A student who is also an employee may also face discipline at a student and employee capacity.

Western was the first university in Canada to require vaccination for students living in residence and among the first requiring vaccination for all students and employees. The university says its policies resulted in a 99 per cent vaccination rate on campus.