With just over a month until University of Winnipeg students and staff head back to campus, mandatory vaccines are up for discussion.
The University of Winnipeg Faculty Association is set to hold a special meeting today to decide its stance on whether everyone on campus should be required to get the shots before heading back to school.
After hearing from members at the meeting, the group plans to submit its recommendations to university administration later this week, said faculty association president Peter Miller.
"We’re aware that this is a pretty unprecedented time and this would be an unprecedented recommendation by a faculty association as well," Miller said.
Some U.S. post-secondary schools have already mandated vaccines, and Ontario universities require them for students and staff participating in certain activities. Last week, the Manitoba Organization of Faculty Associations issued a statement urging the provincial government to implement a vaccine mandate for students and staff at all four universities it represents, which includes the U of W.
The downtown location of the U of W’s campus should be a factor in the decision, Miller said. The downtown area has been designated as a high-risk area by public-health officials and was prioritized for vaccine access as a result. Vaccine uptake among downtown residents is about 75.8 per cent, according to the most recent provincial data.
"The campus, as anyone who walks around the U of W area knows, is well traversed, so I think the city, downtown location has to play a role in this kind of thinking."
He said the faculty needs clearer communication from administrators on what’s going to happen when campuses reopen in about five weeks.
Miller said he’s getting questions from more than a hundred faculty members who want to know what the protocols will be for measures such as COVID-19 isolation processes and masking. The U of W has said masks will still be required on campus until further notice despite the province’s lifting of indoor mask requirements. The university senate has also convening a special meeting to try to get more information on the plans.
"Regardless of what our decision is, the message still from our faculty association, no matter what, will be to all students, faculty and staff: get vaccinated," Miller said.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.