Less than 1% of University of Toronto students requested vaccine mandate exemption

By Sharif Hassan, The Canadian Press

The University of Toronto says that less than one per cent of the 8,400 students living in its campus residences have requested an exemption to its triple-COVID-19-shot mandate.

The university did not say how many exemption requests have been granted or how many students have not had a booster dose but said the “vast majority” of those living on campus received three shots before arriving.

“The decision to require a booster dose — which is consistent with the province’s booster recommendation — was made to support the health and well-being of students in residence and enable them to get the most out of their on-campus experience,” the university wrote in a statement.

“The vast majority of students in residence were able to be vaccinated with a booster prior to moving into residence.”

The university announced this summer that all students living in residence would need to have three shots of a COVID-19 vaccine upon arrival.

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The school said it is continuing to support students who are in the process of getting a third shot, including by holding on-campus vaccination clinics.

“There are many reasons that students are not yet able to get their booster shot – they are not yet due for the booster based on the Canadian vaccination schedule, the availability of the bivalent booster, or because they recently had COVID-19,” it said.

“Numbers continue to change as we work with students in our residences to obtain their required vaccines.”

It did not say how many exemption requests have been granted.

Western University mum on whether unvaccinated students have faced penalties

Western University has also mandated three doses, but for all students and employees, not just those living on campus — the only university in Canada to do so.

The London, Ont., school did not provide numbers Wednesday on how many students have already submitted proof of their booster shots ahead of a January deadline or how many have asked for exemptions to the policy.

Earlier this month, Western extended the deadline to submit proof of vaccination from Oct. 1 to Jan. 9, 2023, after Health Canada approved the Omicron-targeting vaccine, which became available to all adults in Ontario this week.

“This provided members of the campus community the option to get a booster shot in early September or one of the new bivalent vaccines when available or to get boosted in early September with the current vaccine in order to be eligible again in 90 days for a bivalent vaccine,” the university said in a statement Wednesday.

western university

A student walks towards the Western University campus in London, Ont., on September 15, 2021. Western University announced Monday that staff and students who return to campus next month would be required to have at least one booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and wear masks in classrooms. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nicole Osborne.

Western did not say whether any students who have refused to comply with the mandate have faced consequences but said students are able to withdraw and receive a refund without giving a reason.

In August, a protest against Western’s mandate drew hundreds of people to campus, including students who criticized the university’s decision to announce the policy days before the start of the school year and at a time when mandates have been lifted in nearly all other settings. Some in attendance vowed to push to overturn it.

In their Wednesday statement, Western noted that a recent ruling by the Ontario Superior Court on a challenge by five students supported the university’s vaccine mandate.

“The court’s finding supports Western’s position that the collection of proof of vaccination is necessary for the effective administration of our vaccination policy. Vaccination is an important measure in protecting our community members and preserving our in-person learning experience,” the school said.

Trent University is also requiring those living in residence to have two doses. The three schools are virtually the only places in Canada that remain subject to a vaccine mandate.

Earlier this week, the federal government announced that proof of mandatory vaccination would be lifted at Canada’s borders as of Saturday.

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