COVID-19: University of Ottawa mandates vaccines for everyone on campus

WATCH ABOVE: Some Ontario colleges and universities are requiring students and staff to declare their vaccination status ahead of the fall semester. Erica Vella has details.

The University of Ottawa has stepped up its COVID-19 vaccination policy ahead of the fall term, now requiring all students, staff and faculty members on campus to be fully vaccinated.

The post-secondary institution announced Tuesday that anyone planning to be on campus this fall must have at least an initial dose of the vaccine by Sept. 7 and a second dose by Oct. 15.

Individuals will be required to attest to their COVID-19 vaccination status via an online tool through the university by Sept. 1.

The university will make some exemptions to the rule based on the Ontario Human Rights Code or those medically unable to get the shots.

Those who remain unvaccinated will be subject to health protocols such as frequent testing. A mask mandate and other public health measures such as physical distancing remain in place for all uOttawa community members.

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There is a degree of flexibility in the vaccine policy, though exact details remain scarce: those who refuse to be vaccinated but are required to be on campus for studies such as lab work will be subject to “additional safety protocols,” the university said on its website.

Global News reached out to uOttawa for additional details on exemptions to the new policy, but a spokesperson declined to comment further Tuesday, stating the university’s press release contains all it has to say on the matter.

The university said that low vaccination rates among the 18-to-39 age group and an impending fourth wave of the virus spurred its decision.

The new requirement is a step up from policies announced earlier this summer that only required those living in residence and playing interuniversity sports at uOttawa to be vaccinated. A similar policy was put in place at Carleton University last week.

The University of Ottawa joins Seneca College in Toronto in mandating vaccinations for everyone on campus. The University of Waterloo requires all unvaccinated community members to undergo regular rapid testing and produce negative results to be on campus.

Ottawa Public Health sent a letter to the heads of Ottawa’s post-secondary institutions on Aug. 5 after Carleton announced the update to its vaccination policy outlining its advice for local universities and colleges.

The local health unit said its supports mandatory vaccinations for those living in residence, as well as requiring students and staff to disclose their vaccination status.

Knowing an individual’s vaccine status can be key in tracing potential outbreaks on campus, as those who are double vaccinated would not be asked to self-isolate after an exposure.

Those who choose not to disclose their status should be provided with information about the vaccine and how to access it, according to the letter signed by Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health.

“My advice may change based on the situation with COVID-19 in our community and provincial policy direction changes,” Etches wrote in conclusion.

The decision to mandate vaccines earned uOttawa some positive reception online.

Dr. Mona Nemer, Canada’s chief science advisor, lauded the “sound, science-informed decision” and encouraged other universities to follow suit. Numerous students, alumni and faculty at other Canadian universities also tagged their institutions on Twitter calling for similar mandates elsewhere.

 

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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