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University of Guelph announces vaccine mandate

The University of Guelph has announced they will implement a vaccine mandate
20160202 University of Guelph 02 KA
University of Guelph file photo. Kenneth Armstrong/GuelphToday

The University of Guelph has joined a growing list of post-secondary institutions implementing a vaccination mandate, with the university saying on Thursday it will be mandatory for all faculty, staff and students on campus to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The mandate will extend to all staff and students at the Guelph and Ridgetown campuses and indoors at all U of G-managed field stations, with exceptions for those who cannot be vaccinated based on medical or other grounds recognized and protected by the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Additional proof of vaccination requirements is in place for students enrolled in face-to-face music and theatre classes, students living in residence and varsity athletes.

The vaccine mandate will remain in effect for the duration of the 2021-2022 academic year.

A public statement from Charlotte A.B. Yates, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Guelph said: "This decision was made by the University’s Executive Team with strong support from Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health and Chatham-Kent Public Health as a measure to protect the University from outbreaks, to protect individuals from severe disease, hospitalization and death, and to continue to promote a healthy environment in which we learn, work and live."

The university will be using "voluntary compliance" to enforce the vaccination mandate, and will not be, except in egregious cases, actively enforcing the mandate and will not become a carding campus, Yates explained.

She said she is not asking TA's, graduate students, researchers or faculty to act as enforcers of the vaccination mandate.

In the coming days, the university will be clarifying the exact details of how the vaccination mandate will be enforced on campuses.

"Right now we are using this as mandating vaccines through an attestation by individuals on campus, and that attestation will go through an online portal where we will gather aggregate

data," said Yates. "We must protect the privacy of others, and for that reason, we are aggregating the data so that we can track levels of vaccination, but in fact not be privy to your own individual information."

Prior to Thursday's announcement, the university's vaccination mandate only applied to those who were living in residence and varsity athletes. No changes were announced in regards to the current vaccinate mandate for these groups, which requires all students on varsity teams to be fully vaccinated by September 30 and all students in residence to be fully vaccinated within 30 days of checking into residence.

"We know that people who are vaccinated are a very small fraction of the cases that we see," said Dr. Matthew Tenenbaum, associate medical officer with Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health. "We do see occasional breakthrough cases as they are called, meaning cases among those who are vaccinated, but they are rare."

According to the latest data from Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, 75.3 per cent of the eligible population over age 12 is vaccinated within the region and 82.5 per cent of the eligible population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

"We know there is a good likelihood of cases increasing again in the fall," said Tenenbaum. "We have already begun to see provincially some increases in our case numbers."

Several faculty and students from the University of Guelph were calling for the administration to implement a vaccine mandate ahead of the return to campus, with a petition started by a student from the university with the petition amassing over 1,400 signatures at the time of the announcement.

Masks and physical distancing will still be required on campus.

U of G's vaccine mandate follows in the footsteps of other universities in Ontario, including the University of Ottawa and Western University, which announced vaccine mandates earlier this week.


Daniel Caudle

About the Author: Daniel Caudle

Daniel Caudle is a journalist who covers Guelph and area
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