Halifax's Mount Saint Vincent University is implementing a mandatory vaccination policy this fall that is, to date, the most far-reaching of any university in Nova Scotia.
By Oct. 13, all students, faculty and staff at MSVU will have to provide proof they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Anyone who cannot or chooses not to get vaccinated can still attend or work at the university, but they must get tested twice weekly.
"We won't refuse anyone access to campus, but we do feel this is an important step to take to ensure the safety of our community," Ramona Lumpkin, the university's interim president and vice-chancellor, said in an interview.
Lumpkin said MSVU considered partial measures like the one recently adopted by St. Mary's University in Halifax, where only those living on campus or participating in athletics programs are required to be vaccinated, but ultimately decided it would be prudent to go further.
There are still a few details to iron out at the Mount, including how vaccination status will be verified and documented, and whether vaccines that are used abroad but are not approved by Health Canada will be accepted.
Lumpkin said a documentation system is in the works. According to an email to the MSVU community sent Monday morning, the question of unapproved vaccines has been put to public health officials and the university is waiting for guidance.
The Mount is encouraging students, staff and faculty to get vaccinated in their home communities before returning to campus, but in case that isn't possible, vaccine clinics will be set up on campus starting at the end of August.
Lumpkin said implementing a vaccine policy at any large institution is complex and challenging, and she respects the different decisions that are being made at different schools. But she said she expects other universities in Nova Scotia will follow MSVU's lead.
What's being implemented elsewhere
Several other Canadian universities outside Nova Scotia will be requiring proof of vaccination this fall.
Dalhousie University in Halifax has said it "expects'' all students, staff and faculty to be fully vaccinated, although it isn't yet required. Dalhousie is currently asking all its community members to complete a survey about vaccines, the results of which will inform vaccine policy for the fall.
A spokesperson for Dalhousie said university presidents from across Nova Scotia had a meeting scheduled Monday with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang about vaccine policies.
Faculty at Dalhousie are calling for a vaccine mandate for all students, staff and faculty, as are faculty at Cape Breton University.
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