Western and its affiliated university colleges, Brescia, Huron and King’s are strengthening their COVID-19 vaccination policy by eliminating the option for regular testing except under rare exemptions.
This update to the policy, to be released later this week, follows a recent Council of Ontario Medical Officers of Health (COMOH) letter strongly recommending mandatory vaccinations in all postsecondary institutions in the province.
“The virus will continue to circulate this fall and it is important to create the conditions that will allow students to return to in-person education and the postsecondary sector to operate with appropriate public health measures in place during the COVID pandemic,” said COMOH chair Charles Gardner, in his letter to Ontario university and college presidents.
Unvaccinated students, faculty and staff at Western will no longer have the option to undergo twice-a-week testing in lieu of vaccination. Only those with a medical or Ontario Human Rights Code exemption will be eligible for the regular, twice-a-week testing in order to be physically on campus this fall.
“High vaccination rates in our community remain our clearest path to a safe campus,” said Dr. Sarah Prichard, acting provost and vice-president (academic). “As we continue to be guided by the evidence and public health experts, a strong vaccination policy will help us achieve a healthy and safe environment for the Western and London communities.”
Western conducted a survey of all students, faculty and staff in early August to gauge vaccination rates. The survey found nearly 90 per cent of respondents are fully vaccinated, and more than half of those remaining plan to get their COVID-19 vaccines by September. The survey was sent to over 62,000 members of Western’s community with a response rate of nearly 50 per cent.
Western aims to further increase vaccination rates among its community members with the enhanced policy, which takes effect Sept. 7 and applies to all students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus, Prichard said.
Except those with medical or Human Rights Code exemption, proof of vaccination for anyone planning to be on campus this fall must be provided by Sept. 7.
There is no longer a testing option for those who simply choose not to be vaccinated.
Further details and instructions on how to upload proof of vaccination or how to request a medical or Ontario Human Rights Code exemption will be sent to all members of the Western community.
Western’s on-campus vaccination and testing centre continues to be open to all students, faculty and staff.
Additional steps Western is taking to ensure a safe campus include mandatory masks indoors, enhanced cleaning, ventilation optimization and daily health screening.