Eduvation Blog

Vaccination Persuasion vs “Potted Plants”

Good morning! 

Today it looks like you can recognize International Nurses Day, Receptionists’ Day, Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, or Nutty Fudge Day (although if you bite into the nutty part, you might also be celebrating Root Canal Appreciation Day).

My apologies if you’re one of those people who would prefer the root canal to a needle, because today we’re catching up on vaccine news and campus mandates… but if you stick it out to the end, I have two “infectious” disco music videos for you to help overcome anybody’s vaccine hesitancy!

 

 

COVID on Campus

Since Monday, there have been 5 more cases of COVID19 reported by CdnPSEs. (See my master spreadsheet for a running tally of 2,600+ cases in CdnPSE since Sept 2020.)  

Conestoga College reported a third case Monday, linked to an outbreak declared May 4 at its Waterloo campus.  Conestoga

Durham College reported a new case on its Oshawa campus Monday.  DC

Red River College reported 2 unrelated cases Sunday. One individual was at the Notre Dame campus childcare centre May 4, while asymptomatic – therefore the daycare will close temporarily pending PHO instruction. The other was at the Exchange District campus.  RRC

uWaterloo reported a case on campus yesterday.  UW

 

 

 

Vaccine Timing

Yes, I summarized the pandemic on Monday, but in order to discuss vaccine policies, I really need to bring you up to date on a few developments…

 

More AstraZeneca Pain

I’ve detailed before just how sad it has been to watch the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine face repeated setbacks (see “AstraZeneca’s Unforced Errors” from March). Last week, NACI reiterated that the mRNA vaccines are “preferable,” and earlier this week Alberta and Ontario announced that they would stop administering firstdoses of AZ, due to concerns about 12 cases of VITT in Canada. (The rate has risen from 1 in 125,000 to 1 in 60,000. The jury is out as to whether those with a first dose of AZ will get a second dose of something else, and it’s starting to sound like Canada is reconsidering future shipments, since we will have more than enough Pfizer and Moderna shots.)

 

Adolescents Eligible

Last week, Health Canada authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 12+, and on Monday the US FDAfollowed suit. But eligibility of high school and PSE students for the vaccine will depend upon individual provinces, and of course parental consent for those under age 18. NWT planned to start vaccinating children 12+ last week. In BC, those 18+ can schedule a shot now, and the PHO hopes to vaccinate children 12+ “before the end of the school year.” Every Albertan age 12+ was eligible as of Monday. Saskatchewan expects those 18+ to have their first dose by May 31, and those 12+ by Jun 30. Today, Manitoba is extending vaccine eligibility to anyone age 18+, and 12+ on May 21, with the hope that all 12+ will have a first dose by Jun 15. Ontarioanticipates 18+ adults will be eligible starting May 24. Quebec plans to start offering doses to those 12+ by Jun 30. Those 16+ in PEI became eligible this week. NL and NB are still planning.

 

One-Dose Summer

PM Justin Trudeau confirmed yesterday that we’ll have sufficient vaccine supply to offer every eligible Canadian their first shot by the end of June, and a second by the end of September. “A one-dose summer sets us up for a two-dose fall, when we’ll be able to talk about going back to school, back to work, and back to more normality.” PHO restrictions need to stay in place, however, until at least 75% of the population has a first dose, and case counts are “way down.”  CTV

 

“A one-dose summer sets us up for a two-dose fall, when we’ll be able to talk about going back to school, back to work, and back to more normality.”Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

 

 

Summer of Uncertainty

Canada’s vaccination effort is ramping up: so far, >14M Canadians have received at least one dose (37% of the country). Some PHOs are publicly optimistic that we might see “some semblance of normality” by July, if we maintain strong public health measures and vaccine momentum. The challenge to compliance with those restrictions will be that Canadians are looking on with envy as the US, UK, EU and other jurisdictions (further ahead on vaccination) begin reopening.  Global

 

 

So, assuming Canadians comply with PHO restrictions, vaccine shipments continue on schedule, no further side effects cause delay, no variants arise that can sidestep immunity, and less than a quarter of our population is vaccine hesitant, it’s starting to look like our staff and students can be fully vaccinated by Sept 30. Not ideal timing for orientation or residence move-in, or even the first weeks of class, but if everyone has their second dose by Sept 30, we may be able to let our guard down by mid-October.

 

Of course, those were a lot of “ifs”…

 

 

Vaccine Mandates

Even in the US, where the vaccine rollout is well ahead of us, there’s enough politically-driven hesitancy that hundreds of colleges and universities across the country have already decided that students will be required to be fully immunized before they can return to campus. (Check out the new Insider Recap of Vaccination Policies, mandatory and otherwise, announced since March.) I last summarized the state of vaccine mandates a week ago. Since then, here’s what’s happened…

 

336 US Institutions so far

The Chronicle now lists 336 US colleges making vaccination mandatory for on-campus students this Fall, with some religious or medical exemptions. That’s almost double the number of announcements a week ago, including many major public systems. Harvard announced last week that it will require students to be fully vaccinated this fall. On Monday, NY governor Andrew Cuomo announced that 700,000 students attending SUNY and CUNY campuses will have to be vaccinated before coming to campus.

 

Antivaxxer Claims

The vaccine is a polarizing issue in the US, and Republicans include many outspoken antivaxxers. Last week, Arizona commissioner Jim O’Connor told the Arizona Republic that “many thousands” of Americans died after getting the COVID19 vaccine, and that even worse, “there are something like 40,000+ recorded cases of people that are now potted plants. They are human vegetables.” (Of course, these claims are absolute nonsense.)

 

CdnPSE So Far

Unlike many US colleges, CdnPSEs are still expecting a “transitional” fall term (thanks to that Oct 15 deadline) with large classes online and many programs delivered in blended or hybrid format. They also appear to be more optimistic that Canadians will do the right thing and get vaccinated, and are hoping they do not need to make it a requirement for students…

In British Columbia, the PSE Return-to-Campus Primer says that “the COVID19 vaccine will not be mandatory. There are no vaccines in Canada that are mandatory.” (Funny, I’m quite sure my kids needed proof of all sorts of vaccinations to attend elementary school.) Accordingly, UBC says it will not require students to be vaccinated this Fall.

In Alberta, uAlberta “supports vaccine use” and emphasizes its importance, but says that “at this point” no-one will need proof of immunization to work or study on campus.

In Saskatchewan, uSask says it will not make vaccination mandatory, although those who come to campus are “expected” to take every precaution, which includes “being fully vaccinated.” (Huh?) uRegina won’t require vaccination, because that would present “many legal and logistical challenges.”

Ontario institutions appear less definitive right now, as the province is still in a state of emergency with a stay-at-home order about to be extended into June (if the rumours are to be believed). Conestoga Collegehasn’t made a firm decision yet about delivery for the Fall semester, but a spokesperson “does not anticipate” vaccines will be mandatory. Lakehead U says it “has no plans” to require proof of vaccination from students this Fall. Sault College has not yet made a decision on a vaccine requirement for the Fall, but strongly encourages everyone to get vaccinated. uToronto says “the approach to vaccination is a matter all post-secondary institutions in Ontario are considering at this time. We are working closely with the guidance of the province when it comes to health and safety requirements in coming to any decisions.” uWaterloo president Feridun Hamdullahpur, on the other hand, is reported to have said that “we will not be able to require people to be vaccinated to come to campus.”

In Quebec, the province is providing QR codes as proof of vaccination. McGill expects “all at-risk people” will be vaccinated before Fall, but does not anticipate a requirement to show proof of vaccination. Concordia says it will follow PHO guidelines.

 

“You can’t send kids to school without evidence of measles vaccination. This may be another vaccine where many schools will decide to have proof of vaccination. And honestly, I think it’s a very reasonable thing to do.”Isaac Bogoch, infectious diseases prof, uToronto 

 

 

“We are all experiencing this pandemic in real time, and it is too early to say what the world will look like at the beginning of the next academic year. Our recommendation to students and universities is to keep the lines of communication open.”Karl Oczkowski, Assistant Director Communications, Universities Canada

 

 

“I’m a little bit perplexed that some universities don’t want to consider proof of vaccination. I can understand that there are sort of libertarian perspectives as to how that is, there may be some logistical perspectives on how to do that, but at the end of the day if they’re academics and they’re in universities, I’m sure they’re smart enough to figure out a plan.”Donald Cuong Vinh, infectious disease specialist, McGill U Health Centre

 

 

Faculty Reservations

Some faculty associations are already expressing concerns about CdnPSE’s reluctance to impose a vaccine mandate this Fall. I mentioned last week that the uSask Faculty Association passed a motion to call for mandatory vaccination. UBC’s teaching assistants “don’t have a stance yet” but are hopeful the university will consult with them before finalizing a plan. Likewise McGill’s faculty association “hasn’t taken a formal position,” but some of their members believe students should be required to be fully immunized before returning to campus.

 

Civil Liberty Concerns

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association argues that vaccine passports could exacerbate inequities and systemic racism, particularly for new immigrants and racialized communities already hardest hit by the pandemic. “It is possible that individual freedom to move about, to work, to receive services, and to participate fully in the social life we’re all missing so desperately… may be predicated on a voluntary medical decision.” And that the decision may not be voluntary, depending upon vaccine eligibility: “this generates a kind of double-barreled unfairness, privileging those someone else has decided should be first in line based on assumptions about the benefits accruing to them from that privilege.” Ultimately, “what’s the line between persuasion and coercion?”

 

So, what does persuasion look like?

 

 

Power of Persuasion

You may recall that last week I shared Elizabeth Tippett’s argument that there are 5 Nudges that would work better than a vaccine mandate. (These include offering shots or paid time off to get one, information campaigns, incentives like raffles, scary waiver forms, or making it a “hassle” to go unvaccinated.) Information campaigns are absolutely everywhere, but uLeth managed to get out ahead of the vaccination story…

 

Making Vaccines “Cool”

There’s a long history of social engineering efforts, like the MADD drunk-driving campaigns, gradually working to make it socially unacceptable to drink or smoke. (I vividly recall the MADD research breakthrough that teens did not fear death as much as being driven to prom by their parents.) Provincial governments are running vaccine awareness and encouragement campaigns, as are some campus student unions and administrations. Finger-wagging and epidemiological statistics don’t always work as well as peer pressure and role models. Yesterday I noticed uCalgary promoting the “19 to Zero” coalition, “dedicated to changing behaviour and building confidence in COVID19 vaccines” through real-time data on vaccine hesitancy. They recently helped launch a social campaign, #ThisIsOurShotCA, featuring celebrities from Chris Hadfield and Ryan Reynolds to Hayley Wickenheiser and Michael Bublé. “Overcoming vaccine hesitancy is usually about three things: confidence, complacency, and convenience.” uCalgary News

 

“Worth a Shot” at uLeth

On Monday, as Alberta opened vaccine eligibility to those age 12+, uLethbridge demonstrated impeccable PR savvy and timing by announcing that, while it would not make vaccines mandatory this Fall, those students who obtained at least 1 dose by Sep 9 would be entered into a draw for 1 of 9 $3,600 grand prizes of free Fall tuition and fees (and $2,500+ in other prizes). The story caught the attention of Canadian Press, and was carried by the National Post, the Globe & Mail, Global News, the Toronto Star, and many other news outlets. By noon, 400+ students had already entered the contest. (Nice work guys!)  uLeth  |  Globe & Mail

 

 

#ICYMI

In keeping with today’s “vaccination persuasion” focus, there are 2 music videos I feel compelled to share with you… and I hope they leave you with a smile!

 

Stayin’ Alive

UNC Health Southeastern put out a lively 4-min parody of the BeeGee’s “Stayin’ Alive” that’s a pretty good fit for today’s theme, vaccination persuasion. “Not wearin’ a mask, not OK, I’m a go the other way… Shot Shot Shot Shot Stayin’ Alive.” OK, I have to admit, the visuals are superior to the lyrics. I’ve got to admire anybody willing to wear white bell bottoms and platform shoes while holding a gigantic hypodermic…  YouTube

 

 

Apparently disco is in the air, along with coronavirus…

 

V is for Victory

Singapore released a truly memorable 2-min public health video this month that is an “infectious” pop song starring comedian Gurmit Singh in character as Phua Chu Kang. In English (that I can only assume works best when it’s your second language), this energetic and upbeat vid tackles vaccine hesitancy directly, while wearing bright yellow rubber boots. “Singapore, don’t wait and see, better get your shot, steady pom pi pi!” Oh, and my favourite line, “the vaccine is not anyhow whack, and against COVID it will protect.”  YouTube

 

 

 

As always, thanks for reading!

Drop me a line if you spot a good higher ed example of a vaccination campaign, music video, or anything else thought-provoking or cool.

Stay safe and be well!

Ken

 

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