Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia post-secondary schools have high vaccination rates

The bulk of Nova Scotia's post-secondary schools are reporting high vaccination rates among students, faculty and staff.

NSCC had lowest vaccination rate for students, but figure is in line with national rate

Saint Mary's University in Halifax says 87 per cent of students, staff and faculty who are coming to campus have provided proof of vaccination. (Robert Short/CBC)

The bulk of Nova Scotia's post-secondary schools are reporting high vaccination rates among students, faculty and staff.

CBC News requested vaccination figures for each of Nova Scotia's major universities and colleges. 

Dalhousie University, University of King's College, Saint Mary's University, Mount Saint Vincent University, Acadia University, St. Francis Xavier University, Université Sainte-Anne, Cape Breton University and Nova Scotia Community College all provided data.

Of those schools, most were in line with or well above the provincial rate of 86 per cent — the number of fully vaccinated people in the province above the age of 12.

NSCAD University acknowledged the request, but did not return figures by deadline.

Dalhousie University

Dalhousie University in Halifax reported that 97 per cent of its students were fully vaccinated. It said 98.7 per cent of faculty and 97.4 of staff were fully vaccinated, for a total of 97.2 per cent of people on campus being fully vaccinated. The figures were current as of Oct. 20.

Dalhousie mandated vaccines for its students and staff. Anyone who does not provide proof of vaccination and wants to participate in on-campus activities must undergo testing twice a week.

The school started a "campus check" program to streamline the process of providing proof of vaccination and test results.

"As campus check completion rates increase, vaccination percentages have remained remarkably consistent — we have not seen any decline in vaccination status as more and more people have completed the campus check process," the university said in a recent memo to the community.

"This gives us increased confidence that these results are reflective of the overall vaccination status of our Dalhousie community."

University of King's College

Halifax's University of King's College had the highest vaccination rate for students, staff and faculty — 98.7 per cent — among the schools that responded to CBC News.

It said 98.4 per cent of faculty, 94.4 per cent of staff and 98.9 per cent of students were fully vaccinated.

"This is emblematic of the care for one another the King's community has shown throughout the pandemic and it is inseparable from the safe return to campus we have enjoyed so far," an Oct. 21 memo to the King's community said.

Similar to its affiliate and neighbouring school Dalhousie, vaccines are mandatory and students and staff who are not vaccinated or decline to disclose their status must be tested twice weekly.

Nova Scotia Community College

NSCC, which mandated vaccines, reported a student vaccination rate of 83 per cent across 13 campuses throughout the province, the lowest rate for students among the schools that responded to CBC News.

The vaccination rate among staff and faculty was 95 per cent. The figures were current as of Oct. 28.

NSCC has said those who cannot be vaccinated or choose not to be vaccinated must follow a testing protocol.

"We anticipated that we would not reach 100 per cent vaccination," said spokesperson Niki Toomey in an email.

"The percentage of individuals who are unvaccinated — and therefore need to complete a testing protocol, seek an accommodation, or require follow-up — is in keeping with national rates."

The federal government reported that 83.6 per cent of the eligible population was fully vaccinated as of Friday.

Saint Mary's University

Saint Mary's University in Halifax requires proof of full vaccination from all faculty, staff and students.

The school said 95 per cent of faculty, 95 per cent of staff and 85 per cent of students have provided proof of vaccination. In total, 87 per cent of those coming to campus are fully vaccinated.

"The university is proud of our campus community's commitment to health and safety, showing proof of vaccination that exceeds the COVID-19 vaccination rate for Nova Scotia, with work continuing to drive our proof of vaccination even higher," said spokesperson Cale Loney in an email.

The university also started an anonymous and voluntary vaccine disclosure program to report the daily vaccination rates of people coming to campus.

Mount Saint Vincent University

Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax reported that 98.8 per cent of its on-campus faculty and staff are fully vaccinated, and 98.2 per cent of students who come to campus are fully vaccinated.

MSVU requires that all students, faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Those with an approved exemption or who remain partially vaccinated are required to submit regular negative COVID-19 test results.

Spokesperson Gillian Batten said the testing requirements have been administratively challenging, and "continues to require significant follow-up, but we believe it has been essential to helping ensure a safe campus this semester."

"MSVU students, faculty and staff have been overwhelmingly supportive of the university's vaccine and testing mandate and we are grateful for their commitment to the health and safety of our campus community," said Batten.

Acadia University

Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., is one of the few universities in the province without a vaccine mandate.

Acadia estimates that 90 per cent of its "campus community" has full vaccination status, based on voluntary surveys, a spokesperson for the university said.

Sherri Turner said although vaccination is voluntary, it has implemented a number of initiatives "to reach a high level of vaccination in the campus community," including four on-campus vaccination clinics held so far this year.

It has also implemented a number of safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as on-campus testing, mask wearing indoors when physical distancing cannot be maintained, and enhanced sanitizing of high-touch surfaces.

The university reports positive COVID-19 cases on its website. There have not been any positive cases this school year.

St. Francis Xavier University

St. Francis Xavier University also does not have a vaccine mandate. However, proof of vaccination is required when attending events and facilities on campus that are open to the public, including sporting events, concerts and fitness and other leisure facilities.

The school said 96.9 per cent of its staff and faculty are fully vaccinated, while 91 per cent of its students are fully vaccinated.

Students and employees who are not fully vaccinated are required to undergo testing twice a week. All students are required to upload proof of full vaccination to the university to be exempt from the testing requirement.

"We are expecting more students to register as fully vaccinated once realized its mandatory to submit your vaccination status," said Cindy MacKenzie in an email statement. "Having said, we are pleased with both numbers."

Université Sainte-Anne

Université Sainte-Anne — which has five campuses in the province and has a vaccine mandate — reported that 96 per cent of all staff and faculty were fully vaccinated.

A spokesperson said a second vaccination clinic is being held at the campus in Church Point, N.S., on Tuesday, after which it is confident 95 per cent of students living on campus will be fully vaccinated.

Rachelle LeBlanc said rates among student living off campus were also high, however she was unable to provide an exact number.

Students who are not fully vaccinated or choose not to show proof of vaccination must undergo testing twice a week.

Cape Breton University

Cape Breton University mandated vaccines and required all students, staff and faculty to submit proof of vaccine through partner AppArmor.

A spokesperson for the school said roughly 99 per cent of employees and 90 per cent of students are fully vaccinated, "keeping in mind many students are opting for online only courses this term, which means they will not be visiting campus in person."

"We are quite pleased with the way the CBU community has stepped up to get vaccinated and submit their proof of vaccination," said Lenore Parsley in an email.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aly Thomson

Reporter/Editor

Aly Thomson is an award-winning journalist based in Halifax who loves helping the people of her home province tell their stories. She is particularly interested in issues surrounding justice, education and the entertainment industry. You can email her with tips and feedback at aly.thomson@cbc.ca.

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