The University of Manitoba announced Aug. 19 that individuals visiting campus this fall will be required to show proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The university has joined the University of Winnipeg, University College of the North, Canadian Mennonite University and Red River College on the list of Canadian post-secondary institutions mandating full vaccination against COVID-19.
As of Aug. 23, Brandon University has yet to announce a vaccine mandate despite pressure from the Brandon University Faculty Association and the Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations (MOFA).
“This would not have happened if not for pressure from faculty and their representatives,” said MOFA president Scott Forbes in a press release.
“We are delighted that a strong, clear message from faculty was heard by university administrators who eventually reached the correct decision.”
Those eligible to receive a vaccine — anyone aged 12 and over — must have their first dose by Sept. 22 and their second dose by the end of October if they wish to step foot on campus.
“Vaccines are safe and significantly reduce the risks of the most serious outcomes of COVID-19,” wrote U of M president Michael Benarroch in an email to staff and students.
He continued stating that vaccines are currently accessible through University Health Services and plans for pop-up clinics are in the works. Those unable to receive a vaccine for medical reasons will be accommodated and those who request accommodation on “other grounds” will be worked with as well.
Although details on the implementation of the mandate are still being worked out, there will be an emphasis on supporting international students who still cannot access provincial “vaccine passports,” a U of M spokesperson confirmed in an email Aug. 20.
Despite previous silence about their positions on a vaccine mandate amid the campaign by faculty — UMSU indicating it would wait for a university announcement and the results of a student survey before taking a position, and the Manitoba branch of the Canadian Federation of Students likewise stating it wanted to further engage students on the matter first — both organizations have taken cooperative stances since.
“The [university’s] decision to mandate vaccines is ultimately the right way forward for our campus,” said UMSU president Brendan Scott in an email Aug. 23.
“Coming up with a mandate that satisfies all students as well as allows us to get back to normal will be a challenge, but I have full faith in the COVID-19 recovery steering committee to develop the best possible policy.”
Manitoba branch chairperson Alexandra Koslock stated that the federation is monitoring changes in terms of vaccine mandates and public health guidelines for post-secondary education.
“As an organization, we are sharing the new mandates on campus so students can safely and meaningfully participate in the fall term,” she said.
“We continue to advocate for the health and safety of our members and encourage our members to stay informed and follow public health orders.”
The response from students on social media has been mixed, with some strongly against COVID-19 vaccinations, some uncertain about implementation and others “relieved” by the announcement.
“The vaccine mandate is the right choice to keep students and staff safe against COVID-19,” said third-year Asper School of Business student Felipe Cattai.
Cattai said he feels safer knowing that those around him will be vaccinated. He also feels that a mandate is the only way to ensure a return to in-person classes for winter semester.
“Everyone that I have talked to agrees with the university’s decision and are all looking forward to being back on campus full time,” he said.
“I encourage everyone to get vaccinated if they haven’t done [so] yet so we can all go back to doing the things we love.”