A COVID-19 vaccine may not be required to return to the physical classroom at some universities in September, with many large schools saying they have no intention of forcing students to prove proof of immunity.
While some schools have not been determined, the results of the University of British Columbia, the University of Alberta and the University of McGill deal with how governments around the world handle vaccine passports.
“There are a variety of opinions,” said Andrew Kirk, a professor of engineering and president of the McGill Association of University Teachers. “We did not take a formal stand.”
He believes McGill needs students to be fully vaccinated before returning to some professors, labs and lecture halls.
“Others think it should not be a requirement as long as they are vaccinated and have reasonable precautions,” Kirk said.
While the faculty union has not taken firm action on the matter, McClellan’s spokesman said the school has several scenes planned, but expects everyone at high risk for COVID-19 to be vaccinated before the fall.
“We do not currently anticipate the need to show evidence of vaccination before coming to campus in the fall,” Cynthia Lee said in an email.
“The university uses an approach to planning that creates flexibility so we can adapt if we need to.”
Dozens of universities in the United States have reported evidence of the need for the vaccine, including Rutgers, Brown, Cornell and the Northeast.
But there are some concerns about the equity of vaccine passports, with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association saying it has “lit the red and yellow lights in any attempt by the Canadian government to disclose private health-care information.”
It argues that the same groups that are equally affected by COVID-19 – including new immigrants and ethnic groups – may face additional impact from vaccine passport requirements.
“Whoever seeks ‘proof’ of the choice of formal racist service providers and others, who is denied access, especially in the absence of a strict legal regime governing their use,” CCLA said in an online inquiry into the matter.
Meanwhile, the federal government, along with other G20 countries, is establishing a common vaccine passport requirement for international travel.
“We look at it very carefully and hope to join the allies,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week.
Some schools, including the University of British Columbia, point to government guidance, saying they do not plan to require proof of vaccination.
“All adult students, including international students, are eligible for the vaccine,” says Primer Paper, who returns to campus. “The COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory.”
Gillian Klaus, who heads Cube 2278, which represents teaching assistants at UPC, said his union hopes the university will consult with them before finalizing anything.
“At this point, we don’t have a position yet because the university has no plans to return to campus,” he said.
It will change when the school sets the conditions for returning to the classroom, he said, and he hopes the school will take note of the status of TAs.
Meanwhile, other schools are still mumbling about whether they need proof of the vaccine, such as the University of Toronto.
“The approach to the vaccine is being considered by all secondary companies in Ontario at this time,” a spokesman said. “We work closely with the province’s guidance on health and safety needs when it comes to any decision.”
Similarly, Canadian universities are still weighing options, he said.
“We are all experiencing this epidemic in real time, and it is too early to tell what the world will be like at the beginning of next school year,” spokesman Karl Oskowski said. “Our recommendation for students and universities is to keep communication channels open.”
This report of the Canadian edition was first published on May 9, 2021.