USask: Vaccines expected, but won't be mandatory for those returning to campus

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The University of Saskatchewan said in a statement it expects all returning to campus to take every precaution to protect against COVID-19, including being fully vaccinated, but it says it won't require a vaccine to return.  (Guy Quenneville/CBC - image credit)
The University of Saskatchewan said in a statement it expects all returning to campus to take every precaution to protect against COVID-19, including being fully vaccinated, but it says it won't require a vaccine to return. (Guy Quenneville/CBC - image credit)

The University of Saskatchewan expects everyone returning to campus this fall to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but a statement from the province's largest post-secondary institution indicates it won't make the vaccines mandatory.

Earlier this week, the association that represents faculty at the U of S passed a motion calling for vaccination to be a requirement for anyone returning to campus — unless medically exempt — saying the requirement is one of the only ways a safe return to campus is possible.

In a statement sent to CBC News, the university noted current indications are most of the campus community will be vaccinated by the fall term and those returning to campus are expected to take every precaution to protect the campus and wider community, which includes "being fully vaccinated."

In a previous interview, chair of the University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association Allison Muri indicated its members have several concerns about the upcoming term. They include the rise in COVID-19 variants, proper ventilation and the university environment overall, with one faculty member calling the school a "perfect superspreader site."

"There's so many reasons why this return to campus is not really safe without having everyone vaccinated," said Muri.

The university says it's aware two of eight labour unions serving the campus community that have passed motions calling for a vaccine requirement, but notes it will be following the direction of public health officials who have not made vaccines mandatory.

"We will, however, be closely monitoring the status of cases and rate of vaccinations over the coming weeks and will be working with public health authorities before settling on the final arrangements and requirements that will be put in place for the fall term," the statement explained.

It also noted the school will be working with universities and post-secondary institutions across Canada as the year goes on, but pointed out recent information indicates no other university has implemented such a policy.

The statement explained the school will "review and consider all perspectives on pandemic safety and vaccination policies" including employment laws, privacy legislation, human rights and other ethical considerations.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has proven highly unpredictable and fall term plans will incorporate all new information and developments as they occur between now and September."

The U of S is expected to release more information about its return to campus plan this month.