University of Ottawa mandates vaccines for anyone accessing campus
Exemptions may be granted for people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons or other grounds
The University of Ottawa is mandating COVID-19 vaccination for the vast majority of its students, staff and faculty, along with anyone visiting campus.
As of Sept. 7, those groups will be required to have had at least one vaccine dose, with a second required by Oct. 15.
The decision is due to the continued risk posed by COVID-19 and variant strains, the university said in a statement on Tuesday.
.<a href="https://twitter.com/uOttawa?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@uOttawa</a> announces that vaccination will be mandatory for all students, faculty, staff, and anyone returning to or visiting campus as of September 7th, 2021. <a href="https://t.co/yHJcXB3iOE">https://t.co/yHJcXB3iOE</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVID19On?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#COVID19On</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Covidvaccine?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Covidvaccine</a> <a href="https://t.co/vBCTxGWzB3">pic.twitter.com/vBCTxGWzB3</a>—@uOttawa
"We are asking our students, faculty, and staff to play an essential role in keeping themselves, their friends, classmates, and our community healthy," the statement reads.
The university says anyone who remains unvaccinated will have to follow strict health protocols that include frequent testing as well as personal protective equipment requirements. The school says it will consider other restrictions at a later date if necessary.
There may be exceptions for people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons or other grounds recognized by the province's human rights code, the university says.
The move is a step further than what the university had previously announced. In July the university said vaccines would be mandated for students planning on living in residences.
Student union supports move
Tim Gulliver, president of the University of Ottawa Students' Union said it's supportive of the decision to mandate vaccines, especially with warnings that Canada could be seeing the start of a fourth wave.
"We think it makes a lot of sense that we would do everything we can to ensure the safety of students who are studying in a classroom this fall semester, as well as professors and other staff," Gulliver said.
Although Gulliver said he wants to see more details about how the university plans to enforce the new rules, he said knowing that vaccination is a requirement will provide students with some comfort.
"The university's decision ... is giving students who are studying in person the comfort of knowing that, even though they're sharing a classroom with tens of other students, that they'll be doing so in an environment that is fully vaccinated."
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Gulliver said one of his main concerns is how this will impact international students who might not have a vaccine that has been approved by Health Canada or has emergency approval by the World Health Organization, as the university is requiring.
Maxwell Smith, a bioethicist and professor at Western University, echoed the same concern. He said the university will have to decide how to treat international students that don't have a recognized vaccine.
"The challenge really is in the details. It's very easy to say, 'we should do this' and it's another thing altogether to say how that has to be done, and how to navigate some of those challenges," Maxwell said.
Despite that concern, Maxwell said the idea of mandating vaccines for those going to campus is a "smart move."
Other universities, colleges taking similar steps
Other universities have taken similar steps to mandate vaccines in some capacity.
The University of Waterloo is requiring students to be fully vaccinated or undergo twice-weekly antigen screenings. The university says as of Sept. 1, people will need to self declare their vaccination status through a new check-in tool.
Vaccines are also mandatory for anyone entering Seneca College's Toronto campus and Niagara University's campus in Vaughn, Ont.
Ottawa's Carleton University and the University of Toronto will require students to be fully vaccinated with an approved COVID-19 vaccine for certain activities.
At Carleton, vaccines will be required to live in residence, represent the school in athletics, and for some music instruction like private lessons, ensemble participation and for performances or rehearsals.
Similarly, the University of Toronto will require vaccines for students participating in sports and music classes, as well as educational placements.
With files from Nicole Williams and Joseph Tunney