Queen’s should implement a vaccine mandate for students living in residence this fall

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While Canada’s vaccine supply is growing, so is speculation about and pushback against requiring vaccinations on campuses. 

Last week, the University of Western Ontario was the first major Canadian post-secondary institution to announce its intention to implement a mandatory vaccination policy for all students planning to live in residence this fall. 

Queen’s should do the same.

Western also stated that students who must opt out for reasons protected under the Human Rights Code can do so by applying for an accommodation.  

Western’s vaccination policy is a necessity. Students living in residences deserve to feel safe, and a vaccine mandate protects all students living on campus, including those who are medically unable to receive a vaccine themselves.

It’s in Queen’s best interest to follow in Western’s footsteps, especially considering the number of COVID-19 outbreaks in residence our university has seen in this last year. Furthermore, a position that encourages vaccination for students living on campus would be appropriate coming from the university—pro-vaccine equals pro-science. 

Without a clear picture of what Fall 2021 will look like, a vaccine mandate for residences would provide Queen’s students with structure during a period of confusion. Knowing that students living on campus will be vaccinated and safe will positively contribute to mental and social student wellbeing.

Furthermore, this decision would communicate that Queen’s cares about the general safety of Kingston community. The vaccination efforts could serve as a bridge between the university community and the city, hopefully ameliorating locals’ dissatisfaction with previous student pandemic misconduct

The ability for students who can’t receive a vaccine due to medical restrictions to still have the option to live in residence a vital addition to any vaccination policy. But Queen’s must make clear decisions about the bounds of exemptions—strict regulations and repercussions must be maintained to discourage abuse of the system.

Choosing not to be vaccinated for personal reasons is a privileged decision that affects more than just the individual. Queen’s would be well within its right to require students in residence to be vaccinated—living in residence is a privilege for most, not a necessity. 

However, every Queen’s student who wants a vaccine and to live in residence should be able to get their doses. Otherwise, the system disadvantages students who face barriers to accessing vaccines.

It’s encouraging that Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington Public Health intends to work with Student Wellness Services and the Kingston Health Sciences Centre to ensure vaccine accessibility to students and staff.   

For this to be truly effective, though, the University must also provide a robust information system about the benefits of vaccination and where on campus and in Kingston students can receive their shots. 

—Journal Editorial Board

 

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