Post-secondary students aren’t required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to return to campus, but certain schools are working to have their communities safe from the virus.
On Friday (Aug. 13), the University of British Columbia’s president and vice-chancellor Santa J. Ono said in a statement the school is working on introducing mandatory non-medical masks and vaccines for those returning to in-person learning in September.
The university’s Kelowna campus already has a mask mandate in place due to increasing cases in the region, as well as public health restrictions put on by Interior Health (IH).
In a previous interview with Black Press Media, the Okanagan campus’ students’ union said they’re working with IH to have pop-up vaccination clinics at the campus.
Ahmed Ahmed is the Students’ Union Okanagan of UBC VP External and he said the union has heard several concerns from incoming students.
“Some of the concerns are that in Kelowna, there are increasing outbreaks and with elevated restrictions, some students have some concerns about how UBCO would implement classes,” he said.
“Some of our students come from different countries that have different vaccines. Canada only approved four (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and COVISHIELD), but some of the students have taken other vaccines in their countries.”
For his part, Ono said he has spoken with provincial health officials and shared his support of mandatory masks indoors, as well as vaccination.
“First, I believe that instituting both will be critical to allow us to start the term with the confidence of our community,” he said.
“Second, just as the provincial health officer has mandated vaccination for all working in long-term care facilities, I think we should do the same, at least in high-density residences and high contact circumstances such as varsity athletics and theatre/music, in light of the surge in cases driven by the Delta variant.
“We are taking every step possible to ensure the health and safety of every member of our community.”
Rapid testing sites will be available at UBC’s Vancouver and Okanagan campuses, with the date of immunization clinics still in the works.
Ono also shared well-wishes for the UBCO community.
“I know that your circumstances are especially difficult right now. Thank you for your perseverance and for opening your hearts to those around you who are affected by the wildfires,” he said.
“You are my unsung heroes for this week.”