Friday, August 6, 2021 | Category: Eduvation Insider
Personally, I’m taking next week off – so you will likely hear from me again on Aug 17. As a result, this issue is going to be a little long, to try to tie together all the threads of this week’s pandemic developments.
Today, I want to return to what is becoming a weekly Friday focus: vaccination policies. Since last week (“Vax to the Max” and “The Vaccine Tipping Point”) the dominoes have continued to fall as ONpse starts to consider the risks of a fourth wave once students return to campus next month…
As the Delta variant sweeps through the US, many colleges and universities there are reinstating mask mandates or imposing mandatory vaccination policies to prepare for the Fall return to campus…
Elite US Mandates
At least 662 US colleges and universities are now mandating the COVID19 vaccine for students returning to campus (although some have indicated the requirement hinges on full FDA approval or one or more vaccine, expected within the month). Most explicitly include exemptions for medical or religious reasons covered by human rights legislation. Unsurprisingly, 90% of these institutions are in states that voted for Joe Biden in the 2020 election. And most are private institutions, less worried about executive orders from state governors that might ban the mandates – and more concerned about revenues from a return to normal campus life. Chronicle of Higher Ed
As some state legislatures and governors attempt to ban campus mask and vax mandates on political grounds, the American College Health Association and two dozen other organizations spoke out on Monday: “State actions that prevent the use of established and effective public health tools at the same time as COVID19 cases increase is a recipe for disaster.” (As I reported in April, the ACHA has recommended all colleges mandate vaccines for all students on campus this Fall.) Bans have been imposed in AL, AR, FL, GA, ID, IN, IA, MT, OK, SC, TX, UT and WY – although a federal judge upheld Indiana U’s vaccine requirement as constitutional. Inside Higher Ed
The Top 25 are Unanimous
Every one of the US institutions ranked in the top 25 by US News is now requiring all students to be vaccinated against COVID19 this Fall (although uMichigan is so far requiring vaccination only for students living in residence, like most CdnPSEs). More than that, 20 of the top 25 also require faculty and staff to be vaccinated. Forbes
It’s a Small World…
Even the Walt Disney Company is mandating all of its salaried and non-unionized US employees be vaccinated within the next 60 days, whether they work onsite or remotely, “with certain limited exceptions.” (As I mentioned last week, Google, Facebook and Netflix have made similar announcements.) Going forward, Disney says it will hire only those who have been vaccinated. Discussions are ongoing with Disney’s unions. Variety
Vax Over Masks
I’m not at all surprised that a Monmouth U poll released Monday shows just 52% of Americans now support reinstating masking or social distancing guidelines (as you would expect, 85% of Democrats and 24% of Republicans), way down from 75% back in December. (Once mask mandates were lifted, nobody wants to go back – which is why many epidemiologists expected them to last well into 2022.) Nor am I surprised that another survey last month found 64% of Americans would support requiring COVID19 vaccinations. Vaccine mandates are going to be more popular than mask mandates among those who are already vaxxed – and vaccines are far more effective than masks against the Delta variant. Washington Post
In the past 2 days, Canadian political leaders have begun signaling that vaccine mandates or passports may be coming…
Quebec premier François Legault has announced the province will implement a vaccine passport system by September, joining Manitoba in restricting some activities to fully-vaxxed residents. “The principle behind the passport is that those who made the effort to get their two doses must be able to live a quasi-normal life.” Globe & Mail
BC, MB and PEI are reportedly considering vaccine passports of their own. BC says “anything is on the table,” but they will not deny people essential services because of their vaccine status. In Manitoba, restrictions already apply to museums, casinos, and art galleries – but not to PSE campuses. The “PEI Pass” is already in use for people travelling interprovincially to Prince Edward Island. CTV News
PM Justin Trudeau said yesterday he has asked the Clerk of the Privy Council to consider mandatory vaccinations for 500,000 employees of the federal government, and ~1M working in federally-regulated sectors like banking and transportation. (This follows a similar move by US president Joe Biden last week.) Cabinet would likely change the regulations under the Canada Labour Code, which governs occupational health and safety and federal workplaces. Federal labour unions expect to be consulted. Globe & Mail | CTV News
Ontario premier Doug Ford insists “we’re not going to have a split society” by using vaccine passports, although the Ontario Medical Association and RN Association of Ontario have urged him to reconsider. Ontario already requires students to be vaccinated against 9 illnesses, but won’t include COVID19 because the government “respects the choices individuals will make.” And yet, Ontario’s Ministry of Health indicated this week that unvaccinated students will be treated differently in the event of a school outbreak, with longer isolation periods required.
Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horvath has reversed her position, now calling for mandatory COVID19 vaccinations for health and education workers in Ontario. (A day earlier she said a mandate would violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.) Globe & Mail
Alberta premier Jason Kenney says his province will not support a system that requires businesses to ask customers for proof of vaccination.
A new Nanos Research poll finds that 53% of Canadians support the premise of mandatory vaccinations “for people who can be vaccinated,” and another 21% “somewhat support” it. Only 24% oppose or somewhat oppose vax mandates. Respondents in Quebec and Ontario were most supportive. CTV News
Through June and July, 29 CdnPSEs have announced mandatory COVID19 vaccine requirements for students living in residence (all but 1 in Ontario), and 11 have extended that to include varsity athletics and some other “high-risk” activities. So far, only Seneca College has mandated vaccines for ALL faculty, staff or students coming to campus, although uToronto is requiring it for “high-risk” activities, and other institutions are starting to suggest they may follow suit. (See the Insider Recap on Vaccination Policies for all the details.)
This trend has the look of inevitability to me, just like the cascade of institutions pivoting to emergency remote delivery in spring 2020. (See last week’s “The Vaccine Tipping Point,” for many of the arguments.) At this point, 28 out of 48 Ontario colleges and universities have announced mandatory vaccines for students in residence. Laurier reports that Ontario University Athletics is recommending vaccination for all student athletes, which suggests at least 15 more Ontario universities will announce vaccine requirements for athletes in the coming days. Only time will tell how this plays out across CdnPSE, so I’ll track these for the foreseeable future…
Cambrian College announced Friday that it has reversed its position (reiterated just last week), and now willrequire proof of vaccination for students living in campus residence this Fall. Student will require at least 1 dose of a HC/WHO approved vaccine by move-in, and the second before the end of the semester. “At this time” vaccinations are not a requirement of on-campus work or learning – but it is “strongly encouraged.” Sudbury Star
Canadore College announced yesterday that COVID19 vaccinations will be mandatory for all students living in residence this Fall. Students must have received at least 1 dose of a Health Canada approved vaccine on or before move-in day, and their second by Oct 15. “The mandatory vaccine program is for students in residence only at this time and does not impact other on-campus program and service delivery.” Canadore
Carleton U announced yesterday that full COVID19 vaccinations will be required this Fall for all students living in residence, participating in varsity athletics and competitive club sports, or participating in music instruction. All Carleton faculty, staff and students will be required to self-declare their vaccination status, with Health Canada or WHO approved vaccines. First doses will be required by Sep 10, and second doses by Oct 15. “This list of activities that require full vaccination may change or be updated as public health recommendations evolve.” Carleton
Conestoga College announced Wednesday that it is extending its vax mandate to varsity athletes this Fall, like “a growing number of post-secondary institutions in Ontario.” A survey of Conestoga athletes earlier this summer found that 85% were either vaxxed, or intended to be in the near future. Moreover, Conestoga president John Tibbits told employees on Tuesday that “for the winter semester, Conestoga is considering a vaccine requirement for everyone learning or working on our campuses.” (That would follow the example of Seneca College, so far the only CdnPSE with a blanket vaccine requirement for anyone coming to campus.) A decision will be announced in October. Conestoga | CTV News
“It is serious business. We need to be sure everyone that’s on campus can be safe. Do we want an honour system? Do we have passports? I don’t know. But what we’re signalling is, we want people to get that vaccine.” – John Tibbits, President, Conestoga College
Georgian College announced Tuesday that students planning to live in on-campus residences in Barrie, Orillia or Owen Sound will need at least 1 dose of a Health Canada approved COVID19 vaccine by Aug 18, and will need their 2nd dose by Oct 8. Education News Canada | Global News
uGuelph announced Wednesday that it is extending the vaccine mandate to varsity athletes, because “the dynamic nature of sporting activities mean athletes are often in close and regular contact with each other during practices and competitions and interact with athletes from other universities in high touch, competitive and sometimes contained environments.” Most uGuelph athletes are already fully vaccinated, but they will need to provide proof by Sep 30. Rapid testing will be conducted starting in mid-August for teams holding practices. Like uToronto, UofG also says it “plans to broaden these discussions and may further extend vaccination requirements, particularly for courses and programs involving close and frequent contact such as the performing arts, especially theatre and music.” uGuelph News
uOttawa required all Gee-Gees athletes to submit proof of at least one dose of vaccine by Sunday (Aug 1), as part of the medical pre-participation form, and will require proof of second doses by Oct 1. “Student-athletes who do not comply will be removed from the team’s roster and lose access to all the privileges afforded to student-athletes including team or individual training, competition or any Varsity Integrated Support systems.” Ottawa Citizen
Sheridan College announced Wednesday that all students living in residence or participating in varsity athletics will need to be vaccinated against COVID19 this fall. Two weeks prior to move-in, students will need to show proof of at least 1 dose of a Health Canada approved vaccine, and all will need their 2nd dose by Sept 17. Peel and Halton Public Health have emphasized that high levels of 2-dose vaccination will be necessary in high-density settings like residences, to prevent local outbreaks in the coming academic year. Sheridan
Wilfrid Laurier U announced yesterday that the vaccine mandate for students in residence this Fall has been extended to include all student athletes playing interuniversity sports and student trainers. Athletes must be fully-vaxxed with a Health Canada approved vaccine for a full 14 days before they can participate in any competition. WLU recommends first doses by Aug 16 and second doses by Sep 30. “By following the vaccine recommendations of the OUA, we will allow our student-athletes to fully participate in their sports and engage in this key component of their university experience.” CTV
While ONpse is increasingly mandating COVID19 vaccines for students in residence and athletes, institutions outside Ontario are continuing to resist – while staff and faculty are protesting…
Debates in Manitoba
The Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations issued a news release on Tuesday calling on universities to make COVID19 vaccinations mandatory for staff and students “to earn the privilege to visit campus this fall.” (MOFA represents 1,500+ employees at uManitoba, uWinnipeg, Brandon U and U St Boniface.) MOFA suggests that exemptions should be possible for “legitimate medical reasons,” and that international students should be allowed a grace period due to global vaccine inequity. Manitoba university administrations, meanwhile, are toeing the province’s line and say while they are “encouraging” vaccination, they have no plans to require proof. The province requires vaccination for people attending sports events, restaurants or movie theatres – which MOFA argues have far better HVAC systems than many university classrooms. Winnipeg Free Press | Global News | CBC
“I’ve been reading, voraciously, legal opinions on this and it’s quite within the rights of governments and institutions to set restrictions based on public health considerations.” – Scott Forbes, Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations
“I would argue that movie theatres have substantially better ventilation systems than the antiquated HVAC systems at most of our universities with decades-old buildings.” – Scott Forbes, Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations
Debates in Alberta
Some uCalgary profs are urging the University to make COVID19 vaccinations a requirement for students returning in-person this Fall. Faculty are expressing support for Aidan Hollis’ open letter, particularly as the province abandons masking, distancing, testing and tracing protocols. Lisa Young, a Public Policy prof, says “It’s really important to me that students in my classroom feel safe in all kinds of ways.” She plans to post a sign on her office door indicating that unvaxxed students must wear masks. UofC president Ed McCauley maintains that “it is not currently possible” to mandate vaccinations in Alberta. For its part, the minister’s office has said the government “will not be requiring” ABpses to mandate vaccinations. CTV News
Debates in BC
An open letter signed by 60+ staff and faculty at Simon Fraser U expresses serious concern over the provincial “Return to Campus” plan, and urges SFU to mandate vaccinations for students in residence, as well as maintaining a mask mandate in all indoor public settings this Fall. The Confederation of University Faculty Associations of BC has written to Advanced Education minister Anne Kang to urge her to “affirm the autonomy” of BCpse to introduce vaccine and mask mandates, course delivery modes, and more. SFU’s Teaching Support Staff Union has issued a news release urging new return-to-campus guidelines “consistent with best-available evidence” and introducing more “layers of prevention,” and several other BC university unions have endorsed the position.
And OK, it’s not western CANADA, but…
Western Faculty Protest
Some Western U profs are publicly threatening that they will not return to in-person teaching if community cases of COVID19 rise and there is no campus-wide vaccine mandate at Western. Neuroscientist Adrian Owen says he has taken that position “to protect our community and to do whatever small thing I can do to bring an end to this pandemic.” (He also has a pre-existing health condition and a 7-year-old at home.) Physiology and Pharmacology prof Marco Prado says he’s concerned about returning to a 450-person lecture hall, and will say no if he sees risks for his own health or the community. The UWOFA says it is putting pressure on Western administration “to do the right thing and require all students and staff be fully vaccinated.” The Public Service Alliance of Canada local, representing 2,500 post-doctoral associates and TAs at Western, is now adding its voice to the UWOFA’s to encourage a campus-wide vaccine mandate. For its part, the administration says it does not have the authority to impose a vaccine mandate. CBC | London Free Press | CBC
“The writing is already on the wall. It’s already in the research. We need a vaccine mandate.” – Nigmendra Narain, President, UWO Faculty Association
“Hundreds of post-secondary institutions in the US and elsewhere in the world have made the decision to follow the scientific advice.” – Adrian Owen, Neuroscientist, Schulich School of Medicine, Western U
“Anything less than a vaccine mandate willfully ignores the advice of Western’s own world-renowned faculty experts in public health law and infectious disease prevention.” – Nigmendra Narain, President, UWO Faculty Association
Western Vax Survey
On Tuesday, Western U announced a confidential survey of students, faculty and staff “to gauge vaccination rates and inform health and safety measures” for the Fall term. Western was the first CdnPSE to mandate vaccinations in residence, but it has yet to extend that requirement to athletics, music, or other areas of campus. Says president Alan Shepard, “Questions around mandatory vaccination and the threat of the Delta variant have made the circumstances of the pandemic even more dynamic. We are actively exploring all of our options, as expert guidance evolves in response to the pandemic.” The survey is in field until Aug 9, and asks just 2 questions: have you been fully vaxxed, and if not, do you plan to be, before September. Western News | CBC | CTV | Global
Of course, the philosophical debate continues too…
Vax Mandates are Needed
Holden Thorp, editor-in-chief of Science, wrote in an editorial last week that US colleges will need vax mandates to reopen this Fall without triggering another outbreak and more closures or substantial restrictions. Unvaxxed students could contract and spread COVID19 just like last Fall, particularly “immunologically naïve” first-year students and college athletes. Politicians who try to “circumvent faculty expertise” with bans on mandates are putting lives at stake. Science
“In ‘red’ states, where vaccine mandates are not permitted, an aura of uncertainty will hang over the campus and the local community, a foreboding sense that another outbreak could be at hand.” – Holden Thorp, Editor-in-Chief, Science
Do Mandates Work?
By 1980, all US states required immunization against measles for K-12 students to attend school, and in 1982 Ontario introduced legislation to require vaccinations against measles and 8 other diseases. Public health nurses follow up with new parents about vaccination, and the law subjects students to 20-day suspension and parents to $1,000 fines for non-compliance. (With exemptions for about 1.8% of students.) But, argue 3 historians from uGuelph, mandates did not significantly raise vaccination rates in Ontario compared to other provinces, instead only hardening opposition from anti-vax groups in the 1980s. The Conversation
The Ethics of Mandates
Arthur Schafer, founding director of uManitoba’s Centre for Professional and Applied Ethics, explains that opponents of vaccine passports (including the premiers of AB, SK and ON) actually don’t have a sound moral argument for civil liberties or privacy. As J.S. Mill articulated in the 19th century, “when your autonomous choice poses a risk of harm to others, then it may be legitimate for society to limit your liberty.” CBC
Canadian Charter Rights
Two law profs from UBC and uOttawa argue that there is a sound constitutional basis for CdnPSE to mandate vaccinations as a condition of enrolment during a pandemic. Too many CdnPSEs seem to assume that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms “protects the rights of unvaccinated individuals to participate without restriction in the public realm” – but in fact, while individuals have the right to make their own health decisions, they “cannot expect that choice to be without consequence” during a pandemic. Moreover, the Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled that universities are “not governmental actors” and therefore not subject to the Charter in the first place. (Although admittedly that gets complicated.) Even if the Charter applied in this case, “there is little evidence that would suggest discrimination on the basis of protected grounds,” and all Charter protections are subject to “reasonable limits that can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” Vancouver Sun
“A bare right to choose not to be vaccinated… does not also provide constitutional immunity against all consequences flowing from that decision.” – Debra Parkes, UBC, and Carissima Mathen, uOttawa, Law profs
The “Obvious” Solution?
Two social work profs from uToronto and uWindsor argue that “mandating vaccination can risk turning a highly effective and routine public health intervention into a contentious battleground… that can divide communities and marginalize individuals.” Some people have allergies or other medical reasons not to get vaccinated. The mortality risk is unequal and shaped by socio-political and economic factors. Racialized communities, people living with HIV, and drug users have “complex interactions” with the healthcare system, and “engaging these communities about vaccination requires cultural humility and respect.” If CdnPSE does not allow unvaxxed students to return to campus, they need to offer online alternatives. The Conversation
“Universities have a short window to be proactive about the fall and winter semesters. They need to consider what a gentler return home for students might look like this time compared to 2020.” – Peter Newman, uToronto and Adrian Guta, uWindsor, Social Work profs
Reasoning with Toddlers
Thanks to the Delta variant and the unvaxxed population, Canada faces a 4th wave of the pandemic, and a return to masking. Maclean’s columnist Scott Gilmore urges government to forget carrots, when it comes to COVID19 vaccination, and bring out the stick. “Reasoning with a toddler will only get you so far. Soothing tones and patience may work for a while, but eventually the child once again picks up their bowl, looks you straight in the eye, and slowly pours their cereal onto the floor.” Canada is dealing with such toddlers, in the 20% who have yet to get even their first shot. A uSydney study found that the unvaxxed tended to have “less agreeable personalities” and were “less cooperative with others, more selfish, and more extroverted.” Gilmore says “in the vernacular, the term is ‘assholes.’” Factual arguments, incentives and lotteries have been demonstrated to be ineffective – but deny antivaxxers access to large family gatherings or flights, and 40% will opt for the shot. Vaccine requirements in France and Italy created immediate demand for doses. “We need to begin treating the vaccine holdouts as the fools they are… Time for the stick.” Maclean’s
“When French President Emmanuel Macron announced vaccine passes would be required to enter restaurants, hospitals, shopping centers or to take a train, 2.2 million new appointments were booked within the following 48 hours.” – Scott Gilmore, Maclean’s
Phew! OK, after 3 straight days and 10,000 words about the pandemic, I definitely need a break (and perhaps so do you)!
I’m going to unplug (literally) for a week of vacation, to go watch some sunsets over Lake Huron. I’ll also be seriously considering how to pivot our attention away from day-to-day pandemic developments in this newsletter, and back toward the horizon.
I’ll be back in your inbox on Tuesday, August 17th. Until then, stay safe and be well!
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