Canadian sector mulls mandatory vaccinations
As Canadian international education programs plan for a fall reopening, the next question is whether vaccinations should be mandated for international students, staff and homestay hosts.
Western University, Trent University and Fanshawe College are all requiring both domestic and international students to have at least the first dose of Covid vaccine to be admitted to residence.
University of Toronto has the same rule, although it is allowing students 14 days to get their jab after moving in. This may benefit international students who may not have been eligible for vaccines in their home country, but can get the shot anywhere in Canada at no cost.
Sandy Welsh, vice-provost of students at University of Toronto, said in a statement that the rule is designed to keep everyone safe.
“This requirement, which is endorsed by our local public health authorities, will enable us to give our students the residence experience that they expect – and that is so important to their growth and development – without compromising on their health and safety.”
The handful of Canadian schools that are demanding students in residence be vaccinated pales in comparison to the almost 500 US colleges and universities with a must-vaccinate rule. And the vast majority of American schools are requiring at least one dose to be anywhere on campus, not just to live in dorms.
Jennifer Wilson of the Canada Homestay Network, which serves post-secondary, K-12 and language programs, said vaccinations have been a non-issue for homestays so far.
“We’ve spoken to many of our client educators over the last couple of weeks, and the unanimous word on the street is that nobody is mandating vaccination of students, and many are not even asking,” she explained.
“It’s considered a private health care matter, and the choice to vaccinate is considered a personal one (like a flu shot), rather than a mandatory one (like mumps, measles, rubella). So, that’s the policy: students will be free to choose.”
“That’s the policy: students will be free to choose”
While many homestay hosts have chosen to get vaccinated, the Canada Homestay Network is not asking them to divulge this information.
“We have been informing all our clients that host vaccination status is considered private and confidential, and we will not consider matching restrictions based on vaccine status,” Wilson said. “We have had zero pushback on this, and no request for such information at all.”
In the K-12 sector, Canadian schools are not requiring students to be vaccinated at this point, even though everyone over 12 years old is eligible.
“It’s important for everyone who is eligible to register and get vaccinated,” the Vancouver School Board said in a notice to students and parents. However, the board did not specify whether students who failed to get the shot would be barred from school.
More than 70% of the Canadian population age 12 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine.
With the vaccination rates in some countries lagging that of Canada, some international parents see sending their child to Canada partly as an opportunity to get them vaccinated, added Wilson. “We’re hopeful that many of our students will take advantage of their eligibility as soon as they arrive.”