Some UBC students planning to live on campus want COVID-19 vaccines mandated in residences

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The thought of sharing an elevator or kitchen with someone who hasn’t been vaccinated against COVID-19 is making UBC students set to live on campus in the fall, uneasy.

It has some wanting the school to follow in the steps of other Canadian universities that are mandating immunization for students who will be living in residence.

“The residence is one thing that should definitely be mandatory,” Nolan Babin, a first-year natural resources conservation student, told NEWS 1130. “They should already be on top of it if other schools can manage to do that.”

Babin said even though he has received his first dose of a shot, he’s nervous living in residence, where he will share common spaces with other students.

“It does make me worried because the vaccine is proven to be safe and effective, of course, but just because you have it doesn’t mean you’re 100 per cent immune,” he added. “Not mandating this vaccine [means] that there will be students who choose not to get the vaccine. That’ll lead to higher infection rates, it’ll spread more.”

Another UBC student, who lived on campus this past school year, also believes vaccines should be mandated for those living in residence, telling NEWS 1130 there were clusters of cases in buildings.

“If you’re sharing a room with someone else, it is very risky, but also first-year residences, you’re almost always sharing something with someone, either a room or a bathroom and the residence lounges as well,” the third-year psychology student, who wants to remain anonymous, said.

“If you’re putting that many people together in the same place, it would be very risky because you’re sharing elevators, sharing vents, just everything, so that’s why I think it has to be mandated.”

Western University, the University of Toronto, and, as of this week, Ryerson University have all said students living in residence will need to have at least one dose of a shot.

UBC not planning to mandate COVID-19 vaccines

But some students want UBC to go even further by mandating COVID-19 vaccination for everyone stepping onto campus.

“I think they should make them mandatory to the furthest extent that they can,” student Adam Darcie told NEWS 1130. “I guess the question is, how do they validate it and how do they validate valid excuses, or valid reasons for not having it?”

Another student, who’s in third-year environmental science, says he won’t be comfortable returning to class if vaccines aren’t mandated.

“A virus like this will spread very quickly, especially in a closed room, like in a lecture hall. So honestly, I’m going back to university because I have to, but I’m definitely not going to feel very comfortable with it,” said the student, who also wishes to remain anonymous.

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In a statement, UBC says it encourages staff and students to get vaccinated but adds it has not plans to make it mandatory.

“B.C. provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry and health authorities have determined that with the expected number of partially and fully vaccinated individuals, the health risk is low for the return to campus for the fall,” said spokesperson Matthew Ramsey.

“There are no vaccines in Canada that are mandatory. However, ImmunizeBC highly recommends getting the vaccine. It has been recommended that post-secondary institutions do not introduce prevention measures that are different from those recommended by the Provincial Health Officer.”

Ramsey also points to equity, privacy, human rights, employment law, and operational practicality considerations that inform the university’s decisions regarding vaccines.

Meanwhile, Simon Fraser University also says it has no plans to mandate vaccines for students.

“Our focus remains on educating our students about the importance of getting a vaccine and sharing the information that they need to get vaccinated,” said Angela Wilson, senior director, media relations and public affairs. “We are pleased to see the positive response to vaccine sign-ups by the younger age groups and we will continue to look for opportunities to support our student population in getting vaccinated over the summer, and into the fall.

“It is too early to say what requirements will be in place in regards to wearing a mask in September,” added Wilson. “Our top priority remains the safety of the university community. We will continue to follow public health guidelines and implement safety precautions recommended by the BC Centre for Disease Control, WorkSafeBC, the Provincial Health Officer, and B.C.’s Restart plan.

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