In an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, York is requiring those wishing to live in residence for the 2021-2022 school year to have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before their residency move-in date.
“This decision is supported by Toronto Public Health, recognizing that vaccines are a safe and effective way to protect those who will be coming into contact closely with others, especially in shared spaces,” stated Vice-Chancellor and President Rhonda Lenton during the June 17 virtual town hall.
Lenton went on to note that aside from students planning to live in residence for the upcoming academic year, as of now, “York is not mandating vaccinations for other community members in order to participate in on-campus and in-person activities.”
Yanni Dagonas, York’s deputy spokesperson, confirms that proof of vaccination status will be required and provides further detail on the universities’ planning.
“York is committed to the protection of privacy and is required to comply with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). All personal information that is provided, including information about being vaccinated, will be collected, used, and stored in compliance with our obligations under FIPPA,” Dagonas assures.
Students living in residence who are unable to be vaccinated “on medical grounds recognized by the Ontario Human Rights Code” may formally request an exemption, explains Dagonas. “Additional information about how to request an exemption will be sent to students in residence by email in the next few weeks,” he adds.
In addition to the vaccination requirement, international students must adhere to federal and provincial quarantining requirements prior to moving into residence.
Students who are unable to be vaccinated prior to their residence move-in date will have “14 days following their move-in date to get vaccinated” as “additional public health restrictions” may apply otherwise, Dagonas continues.
Lenton stated during the town hall that for international students who were unable to receive their vaccinations prior to move-in, “the university will be providing support and facilitating” vaccinations for those individuals. Specifics on the measures that will be taken by the university in these cases have yet to be disclosed.
York, in partnership with Humber River Hospital, held pop-up vaccination clinics on June 22 and June 23 where the Moderna vaccine was offered. The university recently announced that the Keele Campus will be holding two more pop-up clinics on Tuesday, July 6 and Thursday, July 8 where the Pfizer vaccine will be administered.
Students may also schedule an appointment through the Ontario Vaccination Booking system or attend pop-up clinics held throughout the province if they meet their eligibility criteria.
York has also confirmed that vaccines not currently approved by Health Canada do meet the university’s requirement, as long as they are approved by the World Health Organization.
“All students living in residence will be required to confirm they are vaccinated regardless of which approved vaccine they receive,” states Dagonas.
During the town hall meeting, Lenton stressed that this vaccine requirement for living on campus was made with the considerations of the “close quarters being shared” in residences.
“COVID-19 vaccines are our most important tool for protecting our communities and ending the pandemic,” states Dagonas. He goes on to say that York “strongly encourages all members of our community — on campus or off — to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible in accordance with public health guidelines.”
York is just one of the latest post-secondary institutions in Ontario to require those living on campus to be vaccinated. The University of Toronto, Western University and Fanshawe College previously announced vaccine requirements for their incoming students in residence earlier this June. The question of whether vaccines should be mandatory for post-secondary students has sparked heated debates across the country amongst students and health professionals alike.
Each level has specific criteria at which the campus can operate: Level 1 with 30 per cent capacity, Level 2 with 30 to 60 per cent capacity, and Level 3 with over 60 per cent capacity. York is currently in Level 1 of the university’s reopening plan.
While plans are always subject to change based on public health trends, Dagonas states that current public health indicators will make it possible to expand in-person courses and co-curricular offerings.
“We are therefore presenting a more optimistic scenario with closer to 50 per cent of courses being offered in-person, focusing on offerings for first- and second-year students, whose transition to university has been greatly impacted by this pandemic.”
“This planning is informed by current and growing vaccination rates in Ontario,” Dagonas continues, also emphasizing the university’s commitment to providing a “high quality remote learning experience” for those not able to attend in-person classes.
In addition to the three-step roadmap to reopening, York has released the Top 12 Ways York is Welcoming YU Back which outlines additional health and safety measures including: plexiglass barriers; touchless entrances; and enhanced cleaning, ventilation, and air filtration.