Several faculty groups at McGill University are pressing for a vaccine requirement because they are concerned about the spread of COVID-19 when classes start.
The McGill Association of University Teachers, the university’s school of population and global health, the department of epidemiology, biostatistics, and occupational health, and a group of law professors all wrote letters to university management this week in support of a mandate.
Nicole E. Basta, Canada Research Chair in infectious disease prevention and a member of McGill’s epidemiology department, said Thursday that vaccination rates aren’t high enough among students and faculty.
“Education about vaccines, increasing awareness and decreasing barriers to accessing vaccines are so important,” she said in an email. “However, these approaches have been implemented for months and the vaccination coverage rate is still too low.”
Basta said she would like to see an “opt-out” mandate system, where students and faculty would be required to undergo regular testing if they aren’t vaccinated.
Universities and colleges in Saskatchewan, Ontario and Manitoba have said they will implement vaccine mandates on campus. No higher-education institutions in Quebec have announced similar plans.
Darshan Daryanani, president of the Students’ Society of McGill University, said the union has not taken a position on a vaccine mandate. He said he could support a mandate depending on how it’s implemented but he’s not sure the move would be legal.
He added any vaccine mandate would have to accommodate international students who haven’t been able to get vaccinated in their home countries or who have received vaccines that aren’t authorized for use in Canada. International students compose around one-third of the university’s student population, he said.
“This mandate needs to be inclusive,” Daryanani said in a recent interview.
McGill said it’s taking several steps to keep students and staff safe, including requiring masks in classrooms and improving ventilation.
“In the absence of specific legal authorization, mandatory vaccination can be justified legally only if other reasonable means are insufficiently effective to ensure the health and safety of the community,” university spokeswoman Katherine Gombay wrote in an email Thursday.
Richard Gold, one of the law professors calling for a vaccine mandate, said not only is McGill able to impose a mandate, the school could open itself up to lawsuits if someone gets sick on campus.
“I think they have a legal duty and we cannot, for the life of us, figure out why the universities are saying they can’t,” he said in a recent interview.
The Quebec government has said it will require proof of vaccination from university students who want to participate in extracurricular activities like sports.
Universities, however, are not included in the government’s vaccine passport system, set to start Sept. 1. People in the province will need to show proof of vaccination for non-essential services such as bars and restaurants. Premier François Legault has said universities are an essential service.
“I think you cannot compare a restaurant with a university,” he told reporters Tuesday. “It’s essential to go to school.”
On Thursday, Quebec announced 436 new cases of COVID-19, but no new deaths linked to the novel coronavirus. According to health experts, the number of individuals hospitalized as a result of the pandemic increased by three from Wednesday to 91, and 27 people were admitted to critical care, an increase of one.
Officials claimed 42,799 vaccine doses were given out on Wednesday, and the province’s public health agency stated 85.8% of inhabitants aged 12 and over had gotten at least one shot, with 76.5 percent considered adequately vaccinated.
Source_ The Canadian Press