The hope of returning to in-class learning, COVID-19 and vaccines are at the top of every college or university student’s mind these days.
Whether or not Ontario post-secondary students will have to be vaccinated before eventually returning to in-class learning is still unclear.
“The College is closely monitoring the roll-out of vaccines across Canada and we remain in regular contact with Algoma Public Health Unit to determine the best approach on how to welcome students safely in the fall,” wrote Rick Webb, Sault College human resources and communications director in an email.
Webb said college administrators have not made a decision on whether a vaccination will be a requirement to attend or not.
That said, Webb stated “we strongly encourage everyone to get their shot as soon as one is available to them. Vaccines help protect each other from contracting COVID-19 and we can’t stress enough how important it is to get a vaccination.”
Webb said Sault College has kept up strong safety protocols throughout the pandemic, those measures to be kept in place for the fall to ensure the safety of students and staff, no matter what stage the vaccine rollout is in.
As Algoma University continues planning for a gradual return to on campus activities, Brian Leahy, the university’s communication director, told SooToday “we continue to provide information to employees and students as it becomes available for vaccination clinics in our campus locations (Sault Ste. Marie, Brampton and Timmins).”
“We have also been reinforcing the importance that everyone stays educated on vaccine information and up-to-date on eligibility requirements. As new information becomes available to us, we are sharing it via the dedicated COVID page on our website as well as through our weekly internal newsletters and other means,” Leahy said.
“We continue to put student and employee health and wellbeing at the forefront of our efforts. As such, a number of factors are being taken into consideration to ensure decisions are aligned with public health and sector expectations, both of which are impacted by vaccination rates,” Leahy said.
Sault and Algoma residents eager to get the COVID-19 vaccine have encountered frustrating wait times.
“At this point, the provincial allocations (of the vaccine) are proportional to population. That is how they are allocating doses to each health unit region. I think the disadvantage of a small health unit is that we can certainly get behind very quickly, and we have been, but the advantage is once it is provided we can actually catch up quite quickly,” said Dr. Jennifer Loo, Algoma Public Health (APH) medical officer of health and CEO at a recent APH board meeting.
And, as reported earlier by SooToday, two local pharmacies offering the AstraZeneca vaccine reported their vaccine supplies have been used up, with no clear date as to when they will receive more.
Elsewhere in northern Ontario, Lakehead University has said it is not planning on requiring proof of vaccination for students to return to in-person learning.
Meanwhile, Lake Superior State University (LSSU), academic home to a group of Sault Ontario students, told SooToday it will not be requiring its students, staff and faculty to be fully immunized anytime soon.
In February, Lake State reported having 38 students enrolled from Ontario (10 in campus housing, 28 commuters).
“From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, LSSU has remained proactive and vigilant in protecting students, faculty, staff, visitors, and our Eastern U.P. neighbors through our Four Pillars of Laker Safety (practicing social distance, wearing face coverings, enhancing sanitization, and enacting personal responsibility), regular testing, and mass clinics. We also adopted all NCAA protocols for sports teams. We additionally conducted multiple surveillance testing,” wrote Fred Pierce, LSSU dean of admissions and marketing in an email.
“As a result, LSSU had one of the lowest positivity rates of any university campus and relatively few COVID-19 cases while delivering face-to-face instruction during the 2020-21 academic year. We do not project significant changes to our fall instruction plan.”
“As always, we follow all local, state, and federal guidelines for safe and effective campus operations and carefully monitor the environmental situation should adjustments be necessary, as the safety or our students, their families, faculty, and staff is paramount.”
“LSSU has no policy about vaccinations,” Pierce stated.