Western University will be the first Canadian post-secondary campus to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for students living in residence.
The London, Ont.-based university is requiring first-year students looking to live on campus to get their first shot before arriving, but will allow up to 14 days after move-in to make an appointment.
Alan Shepard, the president of the university, said ensuring students in residence are vaccinated will help students have safe and healthy on-campus experiences.
“The health of our community is a shared responsibility,” said Shepard in a press release. “We’re asking students to play an important role in keeping themselves, their friends and classmates and our community safe and healthy.”
Western is urging members of its campus community to get vaccinated as soon as possible and will be operating a clinic on-campus later in the summer for students and staff.
Rahul Patel, an incoming first-year Medical Science student who will be living in residence, said the requirement offers a sense of relief.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Patel said. “Yeah, it might deter some people from living in res, but overall it really makes the campus safer and puts people at ease.”
Western said an accommodation may be requested for students with medical conditions or other protected grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
The move by the university has also been endorsed by the Middlesex-London Health Unit, headed by Dr. Chris Mackie, its medical officer of health.
“Vaccination is the single most important intervention in reducing the transmission of COVID-19,” he said in a press release. “This will be particularly important with the return of students to postsecondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”
Rajiv Tanwani, a residence don at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., said the move could be debatable but seems to be well thought-out.
“With public health measures and vaccines being such an individual choice, it’s hard to say how people will reach but generally I think it’s a positive step,” Tanwani said.
Residence dons work closely with first-year students in residence, living in the dorms with them, facilitating extra-curricular activities and serving as a liaison between incoming students and campus.
“Residence is obviously is a very high-volume congregate arrangement so I think it’s wise to require vaccines for this subsection of a campus,” Tanwani said. “There’s no doubt less people will want to live in residence but I don’t think it’ll be a significant drop.”
But not all campuses are onboard with the mandate.
The University of British Columbia, University of Alberta and McGill University have all said they don’t plan on requiring proof of vaccination for their campuses this fall.
Currently, Humber College has not announced plans for its residence reopening in the fall. Deposits for living on campus are due on July 18, 2021.