Tuesday, May 4, 2021 | Category: Insider Recap
What follows is a selection of coverage from the Eduvation Insider this year focused on vaccination policies in higher education…
Since many CdnPSEs are basing their optimistic reopening plans for Fall on government projections for vaccine rollouts this summer, there is an implicit sense in which widespread vaccination is what will make the return to campus possible. Still, I observed months ago that campus leaders might have to make some politically unpopular decisions like requiring staff and students to be vaccinated before allowing them back on campus…
Trinity College, a residential college affiliated with uMelbourne, was perhaps the first PSE in the world to announce at the end of February that all 380 students living in residence would be required to be vaccinated against COVID19. (Staff were to be exempt from the requirement.) The Age
Rutgers U (NJ) announced yesterday that all 71,000 students will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID19 before they can return to campus this fall (although they may request an exemption for medical or religious reasons.) Faculty and staff are “strongly urged” to get vaccinated too. Rutgers is one of the largest public universities in the US, and may be the first to announce such a requirement – even though campus leaders were emphasizing “human liberties” in January and indicated that the vaccine would not be mandatory. It may not be legal for US employers to mandate inoculations when the vaccines are still only approved for emergency use: FDA guidance insists they must be voluntary. Rutgers Today | New York Times | Politico
“Adding COVID19 vaccination to our student immunization requirements will help provide a safer and more robust college experience for our students.” – Jonathan Holloway, President, Rutgers U
It won’t just be college campuses considering a vaccine requirement, though…
Carnival Cruise Lines announced yesterday that passengers on some Princess Cruise and P&O Cruise ships will need proof of COVID19 vaccination for select departures from June through September. “All guests of all ages” must have received their second vaccine dose at least 7 days prior to boarding. Newsweek
(Of course, the analogy between campus housing and cruise liners has been made many times before!) To my knowledge, no CdnPSE has announced a mandatory vaccine policy yet – but please do let me know if you know of one!
US legislation and regulatory frameworks are certainly different than those in other countries, but so far no CdnPSEs have addressed the matter of mandatory immunization for students returning to campus. (I mentioned Rutgers and Trinity at Melbourne last week.)
U Notre Dame (IN) announced yesterday that they will be able to vaccinate “all” students on their campus before the end of May, although they are merely encouraging, not requiring, vaccination. Indiana’s governor announced last week that residents aged 16+ will qualify for the Pfizer vaccine starting Mar 31. (He also plans to lift the statewide mask mandate and all remaining business restrictions on Apr 6.) US News
More will Follow Rutgers
The president of the AAC&U says the Rutgers announcement last week will put increased pressure on other PSEs to “take a stance and be transparent” about their plans for Fall, and she expects a number of them to follow Rutgers’ example. The federal statute under which the FDA can grant Emergency Use Authorization for new vaccines suggests they cannot be mandated, but legal experts believe US colleges “are on very strong grounds” in mandating vaccines, particularly if they offer an online option for those who refuse. Higher Ed Dive
Last week, Italy made COVID19 vaccination mandatory for all health workers, after hospital outbreaks where staff refused the shot. And while there have still been no CdnPSE announcements, more US colleges are announcing plans to require vaccination of all students before they can return to campus this fall. (I previously mentioned Rutgers and Notre Dame.) Since last week, Roger Williams U (RI) announced the vaccine requirement (with some exceptions for medical or religious reasons).
Cornell U (NY) announced on Friday that students will need to be vaccinated to return to its campuses, and that those who return without one will be vaccinated as soon after their arrival as possible. Nova Southeastern U (FL) has gone even further, mandating that all students and employees must be fully vaccinated by Aug 1. (NSU plans to return to F2F classes and increase athletics and extracurriculars on campus.)
While most institutions are still quiet on the matter, some theorize that they might make vaccination mandatory for participation in certain activities, or for living in residence, rather than for attending classes at all.
Mohawk College announced last Wednesday it “is confident that we will be bringing more students and employees back to campus for classes and labs, and other on-campus activities this September.” Despite the fact that Hamilton re-entered lockdown last week, fall plans “are not based on where we are today, but where we think we will be.” Mohawk notes that “any decision regarding mandatory vaccination would be made by the province.” Mohawk
Yesterday I mentioned that students will need vaccinations to return to campus this fall at Rutgers, Notre Dame, Roger Williams U (RI), Cornell U (NY), and Nova Southeastern U (FL) – which will also require employees to be fully vaccinated by Aug 1. Since then, those institutions have been joined by Brown U (RI), Fort Lewis College (CO), Northeastern U (MA), Oakland U (MI), and St Edwards U (TX). Johnson County Community College (KS) is offering its employees $250 to get vaccinated. And a QS survey of 2,500 current and prospective international students found that 65% were open to getting vaccinated, and 50% thought universities should require it. (So, although nobody in CdnPSE has announced anything like it yet, isn’t it inevitable that someone will?)
Although obviously the legal and political context is different, the debate over mandatory vaccinations on US college campuses can be instructive…
Mandatory at 14 US Colleges
Last week I summed up announcements from 11 US colleges that will require vaccinations for students to return to campus this fall, including Rutgers (NJ), Notre Dame (IN), Cornell U (NY), and Brown U (RI). Since then, they have been joined by Boston U (MA), Duke U (NC), and Cleveland State U (for students in residence).
Boston U president Robert Brown explained, “Our goal is to move to a ‘new normal’ in the fall that includes only minimal social distancing, where all our facilities are open, students can move freely between residences, and guests are welcome. The key to achieving this state will be vaccination of nearly everyone in our community, especially our students.” BU is assessing how to treat international students who have been immunized with vaccines not yet approved by US regulators. Boston Globe
Legal & Political Obstacles
While it’s not unusual for schools or colleges to require students be vaccinated for a range of diseases like measles and mumps – and in California, even for a flu shot – COVID19 vaccines are currently in a “legal gray area,” according to some US colleges. Virginia Tech has determined it cannot legally require students to get a vaccine that has only “emergency use authorization” from the FDA. (On the other hand, a Harvard Law expert in bioethics says it makes no difference.) Republican governors in Florida and Texas have banned all businesses from requiring customers to show proof of vaccination, and some campus Republican student groups have opposed vaccine mandates. Dickinson State U (ND) is incentivizing students by exempting them from a mask mandate once they are fully immunized. Most institutions admit that they will have to make some exceptions for students on medical or religious grounds. AP
More Legal Nuance
Dorit Reiss, a law prof at UC Hastings in San Francisco, explains that universities have the power to require vaccines, but that it depends on precedent and what their policies have been in the past. And beyond federal legislation, colleges need to comply with state laws and regulations about their own authority. Private colleges may find it easier than public ones to create a vaccine requirement. The legality of vaccine mandates “has been challenged and upheld for nearly a century,” like a court ruling that uCalifornia could demand smallpox vaccinations in 1925. While the EUA might pose a complication, the FDA could conceivably grant full approval to one or more vaccines by this summer. It might be sufficient for institutions to offer an online alternative for students who refuse to be vaccinated. NPR
Here’s what I’ve seen in CdnPSE so far:
Brock U provost Lynne Wells wrote Apr 7 that she has been asked about whether vaccinations would be required to attend campus. “This question has significant legal implications and has been the topic of much conversation across universities and colleges in the sector. At present, there is no clear answer to this question. As we have been doing over the past year, we will continue to make informed decisions by seeking expert advice and partnering with other institutions in our sector to share information and key considerations. I will provide more information if we decide to revisit the issue at a later date.” Brock
A week ago I reported on 14 American colleges that were making COVID19 vaccinations mandatory for students returning to campus this Fall, including Rutgers (NJ), Notre Dame (IN), Cornell U (NY), Brown U(RI), Duke U (NC), and others. (I also outlined some of the legal considerations being discussed in the US.)
46 US Colleges Mandate Shots
Since then, 32 more US colleges have jumped on the bandwagon, including Johns Hopkins U (MD), NYU(NY), and Vassar College (NY). (The Chronicle is maintaining a list of US colleges announcing mandatory vaccinations, and it’s now up to 46 in all.)
Columbia U (NY) will integrate a COVID19 vaccine mandate into the Columbia Community Health Compact, an agreement all students are required to sign in order to access campus facilities.
Dartmouth College (NH) will require all students to be vaccinated before returning to campus, or shortly thereafter. (If Dartmouth “does not achieve herd immunity levels,” social distancing and hybrid/remote learning will be required.)
Johnson County Community College (KS) is paying employees $250 to get vaccinated, in “an innovative way to reinforce healthy decisions.”
Yale U (CT) will require all undergrad, grad and professional school students to be fully vaccinated before they can attend on-campus classes. (A decision about whether or not to require staff to get vaccinated will be made in June.)
“Any school that fails to make this a requirement is compromising the safety of its students, its faculty and staff, and the members of its surrounding community. This is going to be the norm.” – David Paltiel, prof of health policy, Yale U
69% of Students are OK with it
A survey of 15,600 applicants to US universities early in March found (not surprisingly) that “just about everyone wants face-to-face learning” (59% of prospective first-year students, and 72% of their parents/guardians). Overall, 85% were willing to comply with mandatory vaccination rules, 95% with mask mandates, and 92% with social distancing requirements. 69% of applicants were “comfortable” or “very comfortable” with getting a COVID19 vaccination – and that comfort increased significantly with family income. Maguire Assoc
Is a Mandate Ethical?
A new WHO policy brief identifies 6 ethical considerations to guide decisions about making COVID19 vaccinations mandatory: 1) Is it necessary for and proportionate to the achievement of an important public health goal? 2) Is there sufficient evidence of vaccine safety for the populations in question? 3) Is the vaccine efficacious and effective? 4) Is there sufficient reliable supply of the vaccine, with free access? 5) What impact will mandating the vaccine have on public trust? 6) Has the decision-making process been transparent and deliberative? Western health studies prof Maxwell Smith, who led the preparation of the brief, observes that “mandatory vaccination is unlikely to be ethically justified among the general public given limited supply and because it is unclear that a mandate is necessary to achieve public health objectives.” In vulnerable settings like long-term care homes or hospitals, however, it might be ethically justified. Western News
The Vaccination Dilemma
In the US, state legislatures may impose a vaccine mandate, or a ban on vaccine mandates, that explicitly includes or excludes college campuses – and regardless of CDC guidelines. There may be legal risk for an institution that imposes a mandate, or fails to do so. There are religious minorities and outspoken Republicans who will resist and protest a vaccine requirement. But many campus leaders agree that if the vaccine is not mandatory, particularly for students living in residence, a return to “normal” cannot happen this fall. For now, most are emphasizing persuasion and information campaigns to encourage faculty, staff, and students to get immunized. (ACHA is developing a “vaccine confidence toolkit” and a national social media campaign. The City University of New York has launched a #VaxUpCUNY campaign.) Effective policies may not mandate the vaccine, but could “spell out what will and won’t be available to those who are not vaccinated.” Chronicle of Higher Ed
Last Tuesday (see “Vaccine Dilemmas”) I reported that 46 American colleges had announced mandatory vaccination for all students coming to campus this Fall. Some of the highest-profile announcements came from Rutgers (NJ), Notre Dame (IN), Cornell (NY), Brown (RI), Duke (NC), Johns Hopkins (MD), NYU (NY),
In one the most significant announcements to date, 1 million students, staff and faculty in the 10-campus uCalifornia and 23-campus California State U systems will need to be vaccinated this Fall, once the FDA gives formal approval to COVID19 vaccines. That announcement came last Thursday, and on Friday the University System of Maryland followed suit for its 12 universities and 3 regional centres. Other vaccine mandates announced last week included Boston College, uMichigan, Stanford, uPennsylvania and uMassachusetts. Detroit’s Wayne State U, on the other hand, is offering students a $10 bribe to get vaccinated, but not mandating it. And 2 of the largest universities in the Wisconsin system reiterated they will NOT mandate vaccines this Fall – although reopening ancillaries is crucial to reverse some $400M in losses.
84 US Institutions so far
The Chronicle now lists 84 US colleges making vaccination mandatory for on-campus students this Fall, with some religious or medical exemptions. 5 colleges are mandating shots only for students living in campus residence, and 23 are also mandating employee vaccinations. (In all, just 11 of these institutions are located in states that voted for Trump in the 2020 presidential election.)
The Tipping Point?
Last week’s announcements of COVID19 vaccine mandates by several major public university systems – even if they are contingent on official FDA approval of the vaccines – “may mark a watershed moment” for US higher ed. Organized anti-vax movements are flooding the offices of university leaders and legislators with form letters, and 6 Republican governors have prohibited a vaccine requirement in Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Texas. Some campus leaders are hoping that their campuses will achieve herd immunity without requiring a mandate, such as at SUNY. Others disagree: “Hope is not a strategy,” says one university president who is also a pediatric endocrinologist. College students “will not always do the right thing.” Chronicle of Higher Ed
Is Vaccine Bribery Ethical?
American colleges are offering a range of incentives, from gift cards and t-shirts to cash or free courses, to students who can prove they are vaccinated against COVID19. (UNC Greensboro is raffling off $1,500 in meal plans, $3,500 in bookstore scholarships, and a full year of free campus housing.) But is it ethical? If the incentive simply compensates students for their contribution to the public good and overcomes procrastination, then probably yes. But larger incentives could be coercive, persuading lower-income students to make a medical decision, “which is more ethically questionable.” In the US at least, access to vaccines and opportunity to take time away from work to get vaccinated is not equitably distributed across racial and economic groups, either. Inside Higher Ed
Mandates an Ethical Obligation?
Many are discussing whether a campus vaccine requirement is legal (see “Vaccine Dilemmas”), but we should also consider whether it is ethical. One philosophy prof (whose specialty is ethics and virology) argues that in fact, colleges and universities have “a significant ethical obligation” to keep the campus community safe, by making vaccination mandatory. If they don’t require immunization, institutions could face lawsuits too, from the families of anyone who catches COVID19 and dies. And providing remote learning options to students at risk is likely also an ethical obligation. University Business
The situation looks quite different in Canada, where vaccine supply has been limited and no CdnPSE leader has even hinted at a vaccine requirement this Fall. Nonetheless, they are optimistically promising a return to campus, much as they did at this time in 2020…
For several weeks now, US higher ed – first elite private colleges, then major public universities – have been announcing that students will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID19 before they can return to campus this Fall. In my summary this Monday, we were up to 84 institutions or systems that had announced, including UC and Cal State, with 1 million employees and students. In just 4 days, that has more than doubled…
181 US Institutions so far
The Chronicle now lists 181 US colleges making vaccination mandatory for on-campus students this Fall, with some religious or medical exemptions. (Connecticut and 5 other states have explicitly eliminated the religious exemption.) Only a few have qualified that requirement, making it contingent on full FDA approval of a vaccine (which is expected this summer). And of course, just 15 are in states that voted for Trump in 2020.
ACHA says Go Mandatory
Yesterday the American College Health Association, which represents >1,000 US institutions, recommended that campuses make vaccines mandatory this Fall, “where state law and available resources allow.” (At least 5 Republican governors have banned the practice in advance.) The requirement, they say, should apply to all students who “live on campus and/or participate in on-campus classes, studies, research, or activities,” with exemptions for medical contraindications. In the meantime, ACHA urges institutions to encourage their students to get vaccinated now, before heading home at the end of term, and to support education and outreach programs to overcome vaccine hesitancy, on- and off-campus. They also recommend institutions “examine the additional positive impact” of a vaccine requirement for faculty, staff and contractors on campus, and “at the very least” make it mandatory for frontline student health staff. ACHA
“Comprehensive COVID-19 vaccination is the most effective way for institutions of higher education to return to a safe, robust on-campus experience for students.” – ACHA
The “EZ-Pass Lane”
Short of a vaccine requirement, some colleges may instead demand daily symptom screening and 3x weekly COVID19 testing – but exempt those who are vaccinated from the requirement. “Getting the vaccine becomes a convenience factor.” uIllinois at Urbana-Champaign announced such a plan yesterday. Insider Higher Ed
The situation in the US is slightly ahead of Canada, since 43% of Americans have received at least one vaccine dose, and certainly the political and legal context is somewhat different. But CdnPSEs hoping to bring students back to campus for a traditional residential experience – like say the Maple League institutions did last year – may well be first to consider mandating vaccinations too. Our issue is vaccine supply…
The Challenge of Timing
UFV politics prof Hamish Telford observes that PHO Bonnie Henry’s announcement in early March, promising a return to F2F PSE instruction this Fall, “may well have been premature.” Never mind the current third wave – the real issue is one of vaccine timing. At the current pace of vaccinations, most university students won’t be vaccinated until November. Even if BC can double that pace to hit its target of every adult receiving their second dose “by September,” the full effects of vaccination take 2 weeks longer than that. “We would not be in a position to resume face-to-face instruction until after Thanksgiving – at the earliest.” Since students will be registering for Fall classes shortly, Telford argues that universities should postpone F2F instruction for “at least one more term.” (Certainly, a growing number of CdnPSEs are describing the Fall 2021 term as a “transitional” one, before a more complete return to campus in January 2022. You can see my summary of Fall announcements here, and I will have more on that soon.) Vancouver Sun
Since last Friday, here are a few updates…
209 US Colleges so Far
The Chronicle of Higher Ed now lists 209 American campuses which will be making vaccinations mandatory for all students, or at least those in residence, and 93 requiring vaccinations of employees as well. Notable new announcements include 10 public universities in Massachusetts, and uWashington. Announcements have been most widespread in California, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington. A recent survey of 446 US employers found that 23% are planning or considering a vaccine mandate.
Meanwhile in Canada…
CdnPSEs are involved in vaccine research, provide infectious disease and epidemiological experts for media interviews, and are even hosting vaccination clinics on campus, but so far none have publicly entertained the idea of making vaccination mandatory for students returning to campus this Fall. Instead most are “encouraging” staff, faculty and students to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible, or even (like York U) trying to bring a mobile vaccination clinic to campus to immunize front-line workers.
uSask Faculty Call for a Mandate
The uSaskatchewan Faculty Association passed a motion last week calling for anyone returning to campus this year to be vaccinated against COVID19, unless medically exempt. With rising infections and anti-vax sentiment in SK, faculty are concerned about adequate ventilation on campus and the ability to physically distance. “It’s a perfect superspreader site if we don’t have that safety provided by full vaccination.” They urge the uSask administration to join their call, to be a leader in Canada. CBC
“We’re among the highest rates of COVID19 in the country. Vaccination rollout is lagging. There’s so many reasons why this return to campus is not really safe without having everyone vaccinated.” – Allison Muri, Chair, uSaskatchewan Faculty Association
uSask Admin says No
Well, not “no” exactly, but the uSaskatchewan administration says it will not make vaccinations mandatory for students returning to campus this Fall, even though 2 of its 9 labour unions have passed motions calling for it. uSask expects most of the campus community to be vaccinated by Sept, and those returned to campus are “expected” to take every precaution to protect the community, which includes “being fully vaccinated.” uSask will follow the direction of PHO, who have not yet made vaccines mandatory. It will also work with CdnPSEs, but so far no other university has implemented such a policy. CBC
uRegina is planning for blended delivery in a “transitional” semester this Fall, and while vaccinations won’t be mandatory for staff or students, the administration “strongly encourage[s] all members of the campus community to receive their COVID19 vaccination as they become eligible.” A vaccine mandate would present “many legal and logistical challenges.” One student interviewed by CBC thinks mandatory vaccination might make it possible for her classes to be held in-person instead of online. CBC
Nudges, not Mandates
A uOregon employment law prof recommends “5 Nudges that work better than a vaccine mandate,” even though it is “probably legal” to require vaccinations of employees in the US, particularly in healthcare settings. Elizabeth Tippett suggests 1) making it easy to get vaccinated, either by offering shots on-campus, providing paid time off or even free Lyft rides; 2) providing information on the benefits of immunization; 3) offering an incentive like raffle tickets, preferential scheduling, or an outdoor BBQ; 4) making it a “hassle” to be unvaccinated, whether with mandatory self-checks or automated reminders; and/or 5) scaring employees by requiring them to sign a form acknowledging the risks they are taking. Inc.
“It’s pretty clear that there is no scenario for most companies where employees are returning unvaccinated to the office in 2021. This is a conversation that HR leaders need to be having with their people now.” – Justin Holland, CEO, HealthJoy
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.)
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.
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”…
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.
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
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?
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
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!
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
After months tracking the mounting number of US colleges requiring vaccinations of their students to permit a full return to campus, I had just about given up hope that CdnPSE would ever follow suit… but now I’m pleased to report the first announcement, here in my hometown of London Ontario. I feel better already about our chances for the Fall in this town…
In the US, where vaccinations have become a political hot potato, nonetheless hundreds of colleges and universities are demanding that students be fully immunized before they can return to campus this Fall. (Check out the new Insider Recap of Vaccination Policies, mandatory and otherwise, announced since March.) Since my last summary on May 12 (“Vaccination Persuasion vs Potted Plants”), here’s what’s new…
422 US Institutions so far
The Chronicle now lists 422 US colleges making COVID19 vaccination mandatory for on-campus students this Fall, with some religious or medical exemptions. New additions include uVirginia, who will require students on campus to produce proof of vaccination by Jul 1, and will require unvaccinated staff to undertake regular COVID19 testing. Yale and Brown U extended their vax mandates to include faculty and staff too, as have about a third of the others. Indiana U says it will cancel class registrations for students and fire staff members who don’t comply with its vax mandate at all 7 campuses across the state.
“Requiring the COVID19 vaccine among our students, faculty and staff continues to extend the university’s comprehensive and thoughtful approach to managing and mitigating the pandemic on our campuses and brings us one step closer to making a ‘return to normal’ a reality.” – Michael McRobbie, President, Indiana U
Although many US colleges already require immunizations for measles, mumps, rubella or the flu, the COVID19 vaccine has become politically polarizing (even while Republican former president Donald Trump often takes credit for speeding its development). Almost all the private and public colleges in the US with COVID19 vax mandates are in states that elected Joe Biden in the 2020 election, with just 34 located in “red” states (such as Indiana U). So far, 19 state legislatures have passed a variety of polarizing laws to attempt to sway campus decisions: in Texas, private colleges can require vaccinations but public ones can’t; in New York, private colleges can allow for religious exemptions but public ones can’t. (In all, 12 states have forbidden a vax mandate at public institutions, and 7 have insisted on it. Across the country, 75% of schools with vax mandates allow for religious exemptions.) College presidents are balancing safety, politics, and peer pressure with economic self-interest: no-one yet knows how many students will be attracted by the prospect of a return to normal campus life, compared to those antivaxxers who may be repelled. “People are waiting for a tipping point,” says one president, waiting for safety in numbers as more announcements are made. New York Times | NBC News
Splitting Legal Hairs
In a ruling that only a lawyer could love, Indiana’s Attorney General has now ruled that Indiana U cannot require proof of vaccination (due to a new state law banning the requirement of an “immunization passport”), but IU can require vaccinations of students and employees. The new law “only prohibits public universities from requiring proof of the COVID-19 vaccine; it does not prohibit them from requiring the vaccination itself.” IU took the win: “In yesterday’s opinion, the attorney general affirmed that it is legal for us to require a vaccine, including one under an Emergency Use Authorization.” Inside Higher Ed
Legal Gray Area
As far as US vaccine mandates are concerned, courts have not yet weighed in – although 100-year-old precedent exists for smallpox vaccinations. All 50 states have some K-12 vaccination requirements for public schools (with some medical or religious exemptions), and some colleges have successfully defended mandatory flu vaccines. The biggest difference with COVID19 vaccines is that they are still only provisionally authorized for emergency use by the FDA – although that is expected to change by mid-summer. The other challenge will be determining how to confirm vaccination status within the bounds of privacy legislation. Inside Higher Ed
Since March, CdnPSE leaders have largely dismissed a vaccine mandate as a legal impossibility, while encouraging the entire community to get vaccinated (see the Insider Recap of Vaccination Policies). Yesterday, that appeared to change, in what could be the first domino falling…
Vax Mandate at Western U
As long-time Insider readers will know, Western U was one of CdnPSE’s hardest-hit campuses during the pandemic, with at least 377 reported cases and outbreaks in virtually every undergraduate dormitory. Yesterday, Western became the first university in the country to mandate COVID19 vaccinations for students in residence this Fall, when it anticipates a “full return to in-person classes.” Western and its affiliates (Brescia, Huron, and King’s UC) “will require students living in residence to have received at least a first dose of the COVID19 vaccine, assuming Ontario’s supply allows.” Those who can’t get vaccinated prior to arrival will have 14 days following move-in to get vaccinated at campus clinics. The decision was strongly encouraged by the local health unit. President Alan Shepard believes Western “won’t be the last” university in Canada to introduce a vaccine requirement. Western News | London Free Press
Western’s announcement specifically mentioned that medical or human rights accommodations will be possible, although a lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association expressed concern that it might require the disclosure of private health information. uWaterloo says “all the information we have right now suggests that we will not be able to require people to be vaccinated to come to campus.” So far, the UWO Student Council reports largely “positive responses” from students. Globe & Mail
“The Middlesex-London Health Unit strongly supports all efforts to increase the uptake of COVID-19 vaccination, particularly in congregate living settings such as postsecondary residences.” – Chris Mackie, MOH, MLHU
“We’re seeing very strong vaccine uptake amongst university-age students, so I think this will actually bring a sense of comfort and safety to those who want to come to Western and live in residence.” – Alan Shepard, President, Western U
Waiting on the PHOs
Most Canadian universities are still planning for a variety of scenarios this Fall (more on that next week), and say they will follow local PHO guidelines about vaccination. uSaskatchewan faculty and staff unions have called on the administration to make COVID19 vaccinations mandatory on campus, but the university says it is not planning to do so. uRegina has announced it will not make vaccines mandatory, while McGill says it doesn’t “currently anticipate” requiring proof of vaccination. uToronto and other Ontario universities are still considering the best approach. University Affairs
So, how do students feel about vaccine mandates? Predictably, Americans are divided along partisan lines, but other data points suggest about two-thirds of our students are likely pro-vax…
67% in Favour for CdnPSE
An Ipsos survey of 1,001 Canadians (May 12-14) found that 72% support vaccine passports for air travel, and 67% for concerts, theatres, or attending PSE. (Even a majority of those not yet vaccinated still supported the idea.) Canada is outlining strict guidelines for vaccine passports, recognizing that they represent “an encroachment on civil liberties.” The EU and UK are charging ahead with digital solutions, while Israel has a “green pass” system. Among younger Canadians (age 18-34) the survey found somewhat higher opposition to vaccine passports for outdoor concerts (44%). Global
A uManitoba study of 664 young Manitobans (age 16-21) found likewise that 65.5% were willing to get a COVID19 vaccine, 26.1% were unsure, and 8.5% were opposed. Researchers explored the underlying causes and distribution of vaccine hesitancy, which was greater among those from lower household incomes and parental education, with a history of household substance abuse or spanking. They recommend messaging that emphasizes vaccine safety and effectiveness, while explaining the importance of protecting against COVID19. The Conversation
A new QS survey of 105,000 international students found that 68% would receive the COVID19 vaccine if offered, and just 7% would not (although 40% of those respondents would accept it if required by their university). New Zealand is overwhelmingly perceived to have handled the pandemic best (selected by 33% of respondents), followed by Germany (10%) and China (8%). QS
CdnPSE leaders and health experts have been outspoken in their support of COVID19 vaccination, active in provincial policy debates, and many campuses have provided space for public immunization clinics or testing. But in recent weeks a number of interesting efforts have arisen to persuade the hesitant…
The government of Alberta has launched a new social media and outdoor ad campaign to tell Albertans that “your vaccine is your ticket back to normal life.” The communications strategy has shifted from appeals to altruism (like protecting the vulnerable) to blatant self-interest. Ads will feature youth soccer games, families socializing, all without masks or social distancing – framed inside a hypodermic needle. CTV News
Appeal to Libido
The appeal to selfishness can go even lower. The Biden Administration has partnered with dating apps Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, Badoo, OkCupid, Chispa, BLK, Match and Plenty of Fish to encourage the “horny but vaccine-hesitant” to get their shot. Vaccinated users (who self-identify) will get access to premium features or “boosts” for free, badges for their profiles, and filters so they only see other vaccinated matches. “People who display their vaccination status are 14% more likely to get a match,” explains the White House. “The vaccine will get you laid,” translates Gizmodo. Buzzfeed | Gizmodo
uPennsylvania researchers tested 19 styles of text messages on 47,000 people to encourage them to get a flu shot in 2020, and found that professional tone beat out casual. In particular, messages that reported “a flu vaccine is available for you” 72 hours prior to a doctor’s appointment, and “a flu vaccine has been reserved for your appointment” 24 hours prior, boosted vaccinations from 42% to 46.6%. A similar study of 700,000 Walmart pharmacy customers found that texts indicating a vaccine was “waiting for them” was more effective than any other. In marketing terms, the messages are leveraging psychological loss aversion, and an opt-out default. Washington Post
West Virginia U is trying to incentivize students and staff to get the shot by promising a return to normalcy: if the campus hits 50% vaccinated, concerts, plays and the rec centre will reopen at 50% capacity. At 60%, outdoor intramural sports will resume and residence halls will be open to student visitors. At 75%, many programs will run at full capacity and homecoming will be in person. So far, just 12% of employees and 6% of students have confirmed their vaccination status. Chronicle of Higher Ed
You may recall from my last summary that Alberta’s uLethbridge launched a free tuition draw for students vaccinated by Sep 9 (see “Worth a Shot”). The approach was quickly emulated by Manitoba’s Assiniboine Community College, where students who show proof of vaccination have a chance to win a full year’s tuition in the “Armed for Fall” contest. In the US, state lottery incentives started with Ohio’s “Vax-a-Million” lottery, with weekly $1M prizes but also 5 full-ride 4-year scholarships. California has launched a $116.5M lottery for 40 lucky winners, and $50 gift cards for the first 2M others, who get vaccinated. New York state is raffling off 50 full-ride scholarships to university for 12-17-year olds, which cover tuition, room and board, books and transportation – roughly a $24,000 value. And Oregon’s “Take Your Shot” contest is raffling off 5 college scholarships worth $100,000 each!
Last Thursday, Western U announced that a first dose of COVID19 vaccine would be mandatory for students entering residence in September (see “Moving the Needle on Vaccines”). It was a bold and welcome move, and a first in CdnPSE… but as president Alan Shepard said at the time, it wouldn’t be the last. (See the Insider Recap of Vaccination Policies for more announcements and details.)
Trent makes Vaccine Mandatory
Trent U announced yesterday that it will, like Western, require all students living in residence to have at least one dose of COVID19 vaccine before move-in day, and preferably two, “subject to availability and with some exemptions.” The approach should allow for “near-full occupancy” and support a “full return to in-person learning” this Fall. (Peterborough saw a deadly outbreak among PSE students this year, and the health unit strongly supports the mandate.) Trent
“Requiring vaccines for students living in residence will be an important way to ensure that we avoid residence outbreaks and are able to offer our residence students the transformative on-campus experiences students have learned to expect from Trent.” – Leo Groarke, President, Trent U
“We’ve already seen policies with school-aged children about mandatory vaccination… The main criteria… is ensuring to keep students safe. And how do we go about doing that in a global pandemic with a contagious virus? That’s ensuring that everybody gets vaccinated.” – Ryan Watkins, Toronto employment lawyer
Others are Debating
Many other Ontario institutions are still considering a vaccine mandate in the wake of the decisions announced by Western and Trent…
Algoma U reports that decisions around vaccine requirements are “still in flux,” but discussions are ongoing and something similar to Western “is not off the table.” CBC
Cambrian College says they do not currently plan to require vaccinations, but will follow recommendations from their local PHO. CBC
Collège Boréal says it’s “very unlikely” that vaccines will be made mandatory for students or staff, and that Ontario’s 24 colleges are working on a coordinated approach. CBC
Fleming College, also in Peterborough, is reportedly “actively considering options” and will “communicate a definitive decision… in the next few days.” Global
Laurentian U says they do not currently plan to require vaccinations, but will follow recommendations from their local PHO. CBC
Mohawk College told media that the college sector has not yet made a determination on vaccines for students, suggesting that a collective decision may be forthcoming. Hamilton Spectator
York U says it is “closely watching how universities around the world are or are not considering required vaccinations for those who want to participate in activities on campus,” and strongly encourages everyone to get vaccinated, but “at this point in time” is not requiring vaccinations. Y File
McMaster is Opposed
On the other hand, one university has taken a starkly contrary stance…
McMaster U reiterated yesterday that vaccinations will not be required for students in its residences this fall, even though the halls are expected to be operating at 93% capacity. (Last year, Mac residences were essentially closed to students – so the university had a much gentler experience. I tracked just 49 announced cases on campus for 2020-21.) McMaster AVP Students Sean Van Koughnet says tracking vaccination status would impose “a tremendous administrative burden.” He explains: “If you’re not mandating it, and have 75 to potentially 80%, who knows, of the student population vaccinated, you’re not going to have large outbreaks.” (The McMaster Oversight Committee Report adds, “We also recognize the importance of individual choice and recommend that the University clarify that we will not be requiring individuals to be vaccinated.”) Global
For more than 2 months now, I’ve been noting the rapid adoption of vaccine mandates across US college and university campuses (now 479 institutions) and predicting that some CdnPSEs would inevitably follow suit. (See the Insider Recap of Vaccination Policies for all my coverage.)
Sure enough, the first CdnPSE announcement came May 27 from Western U, who will require all students in residence to have at least one dose of vaccine this Fall (as will the affiliated colleges, King’s, Huron and Brescia). Days later, on June 1, Trent U followed suit. Now, 2 more “dominoes” have fallen in Ontario…
Vax Mandate at Fanshawe
Last Thursday, Jun 3, Fanshawe College (like Western, also in London ON) announced that students living in residence this September will be required to show proof of having at least one dose of an approved COVID19 vaccine, and will also be expected to get their second dose in a timely fashion. (Fanshawe’s 3 campus residence halls accommodate 1,220 students, and nearby townhouses another 396.) Two weeks after their first dose, students will be allowed to use lounges and common spaces, and engage in in-person social activities on campus. Some exemptions on medical or other grounds may be possible, although they will come with restrictions. The regional PHO publicly thanked Fanshawe for its decision: “You’ll really, certainly, prevent cases and likely outbreaks from occurring in the future.” Fanshawe | CBC
“Providing an enriched residence living experience is a top priority for the Fanshawe Residence experience this fall, and that requires measures to protect ourselves and our student community to the fullest extent we can.” – David Norwood, Director of Residence Operations, Fanshawe College
Vax Mandate at uToronto
Yesterday, uToronto announced that students living in residence on any of its 3 campuses this Fall, or in its affiliated colleges, must be vaccinated against COVID19. UofT strongly recommends that students get their first dose at least 14 days prior to residence move-in, but those who have not will have 14 days’ grace to do so. Documentary evidence must be provided, and will be handled in compliance with FIPPA. Students who cannot be vaccinated on medical grounds “or other grounds recognized by the Ontario Human Rights Code” can request an exemption. (The requirement also does not apply to UofT’s student family housing.) UofT
Manitoba PSE Considering
As of Sunday, Manitoba’s uWinnipeg and Red River College reported they were still considering the possibility of a vaccine requirement in residence, while uManitoba, Saint Boniface U, Brandon U and UC of the North said they did not plan to implement such a mandate. (As of Jun 1, uManitoba had reported 87 COVID19 cases on campus.) Toronto Star
European Unis Debating
In the UK, university vice-chancellors are grappling with the risk of anti-vax sentiment among their staff and students, domestic or international. Louise Richardson, VC of Oxford, had trouble answering the question, “what are we going to do to all those who… jeopardize the health of their colleagues by refusing to get a vaccine?” Michael Ignatieff, president of Central European U, doesn’t see how campus can operate without a vaccine requirement. Times Higher Ed
“Institutions may have to make vaccines mandatory. I just don’t know how we can operate institutions [otherwise].” – Michael Ignatieff, President, Central European U
US CDC Guidelines
On Friday, the American CDC issued updated higher ed guidance indicating that campuses with all students and employees fully vaccinated against COVID19 prior to the start of the semester can resume in-person classes at full capacity, and abandon mask mandates, physical distancing and testing requirements. (General flu prevention practices, such as hand hygiene, symptom screening and contact tracing, still apply.) The CDC does not supersede state or local regulation, some of which explicitly forbid a vaccine mandate. CDC
“Vacc2school” at GPRC
As I’ve outlined in previous issues, many state and provincial governments – and some colleges and universities – have launched immunization ad campaigns, lotteries and incentives ranging from free donuts to free tuition. (And let’s not forget Ohio’s “Vax-a-Million” lottery!) Tuition contests seem to be particularly popular in Alberta, starting with uLethbridge’s “Worth a Shot” contest, and now Grande Prairie Regional College’s “Vacc2school” campaign. From Jun 1 to Sep 1, GPRC students, faculty and staff who had received a COVID19 shot can enter to win 160+ prizes, from Wolves merchandise and bookstore vouchers to 3 grand prizes of full tuition for the Fall term. Vaccinated faculty and staff can win parking passes. GPRC News
Many CdnPSEs are participating in a national social media campaign, “Faster Together,” to encourage campus communities (and Canadians of all ages) to get vaccinated ASAP. The campaign, led by Spark*Advocacy, Abacus Data and the Canadian Labour Congress, launched in early June with more than 17 Canadian universities and hundreds of other partners. Queen’s Gazette | FasterTogether.ca
OK, CdnPSE, so who’s next?
Speaking of campaigns to motivate people to get vaccinated, here’s a great one that also embraces diversity!
Ka kite, COVID!
New Zealand has done plenty of things right in this pandemic, and I think this upbeat 1-min immunization commercial is just one more! “Ka kite, COVID” (essentially “see ya!”) features feisty kids, adults, doctors, athletes and more telling COVID19 “you were a bit of an egg in 2020, eh?” and that “we’re ready to win!” The vaccination centre offers a “metaphorical door to freedom” through which “we’re getting immunity!” It’s a very cool ad, with multilingual sound bites and plenty of in-your-face diversity. YouTube
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