Edmonton post-secondary students’ unions welcome COVID-19 vaccine mandates

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Students’ unions at Edmonton post-secondaries are welcoming news of COVID-19 vaccine mandates, saying student safety is a priority while there are in-person classes on campus.

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On Monday, the University of Alberta, MacEwan University, NorQuest College and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) announced proof of vaccination will soon be required for students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus, with negative rapid COVID-19 tests no longer accepted as an alternative.

U of A Students’ Union president Rowan Ley said they support the mandate and most of the feedback they have received so far has been positive as well.

“There are of course, a small number of people who were angry, which was expected,” Ley said.

“But the vast majority of students, like I think the vast majority of Canadians, are sick of people who refuse to be vaccinated. It is prolonging the pandemic, it would put U of A at risk of not being able to continue in-person classes. So, making sure that people who are eligible to be vaccinated, are vaccinated, is very important to almost all students.”

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Ley said he has received a lot of emails from students who have immunocompromised relatives who do not feel safe coming to class.

“They can’t focus on their schoolwork, because they could be sitting three inches from someone who’s willfully unvaccinated and infected,” he said. “So that’s not fair to those people, they have a right to feel safe when they come to campus, and it’s for them mostly that I’m happy.”

Ley noted for those who do not want to get vaccinated, the withdrawal deadline for courses is Wednesday, where they can drop their course and receive a full refund.

“At this point, if not being vaccinated is really so important to them, that’s what I would suggest they do,” he said.

University spokesman Michael Brown said more than 40,000 U of A students, faculty and staff have declared their vaccination status, with 91 per cent reporting being fully vaccinated. Of faculty and staff, 97 per cent who self-disclosed are fully vaccinated and 90 per cent of students report being fully vaccinated.

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On Tuesday, NAIT informed its community their vaccine mandate will be implemented on Nov. 8, meaning students, staff, contractors and visitors will need to receive their second dose on or before Oct. 24 to be considered fully vaccinated.

NAIT Students’ Association vice-president internal Jorgia Moore said student safety is a primary concern for the association, so they are supportive of the mandate in principal.

“However, we did have some concerns that it will cause some academic disruption. So we hope that NAIT can mitigate that and ensure that there’s the proper resources for students there,” Moore said.

“We encourage NAIT to offer some sort of accommodation for those who choose not to get vaccinated.”

She said NAIT should keep in mind withdrawal deadlines and refunds for each course.

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NAIT spokeswoman Nicole Graham said the withdrawal deadline has been extended to Sept. 24 for degree, diploma and certificate students and for apprenticeship and continuing education courses that continue past the Nov. 8 vaccination deadline.

She added NAIT is finalizing the process for provide proof of vaccine, and it does not currently collect information on vaccination rates from staff and students.

Meanwhile, at MacEwan University, as of late August, 95 per cent of faculty and staff and 86 per cent of students who responded to a voluntary survey indicated that they had received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

MacEwan plans to implement its vaccine mandate beginning in the winter 2022 term.

At NorQuest College, an informal survey of vaccination status of students, staff, and faculty was completed in August. Of those who responded, 83 per cent reported being fully vaccinated, and another nine per cent indicated they planned to become fully vaccinated by Aug. 30.

NorQuest will implement its vaccine mandate on Nov. 1.

ajunker@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/JunkerAnna

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