Students and staff at Western University will have to get at least three jabs if they want to remain on campus this year.
The university has also reimplemented its mask mandate, which was suspended for the summer term.
The London, Ont. university quietly updated its vaccine policy Monday, just over two weeks before classes are set to begin.
Western, officially called the University of Western Ontario, appears to be the first Canadian university to implement a booster requirement for the broader campus community. The University of Toronto is requiring boosters from students who will be living in campus residences.
Multiple Western students confirmed to True North that they have not received formal notice of the policy change, which is buried in a link on a page which has not been updated in more than a month. The university’s newsletter announced the policy Monday afternoon after True North sent a request for comment.
The page, a July 21 Covid update from the university administration, promised “an update on the policy and all health and safety measures for the fall academic term the week of August 8.” By the time of publishing, no update had been published, even in light of the new vaccine policy, which is dated August 22, 2022.
Western’s existing policy required all students, staff and visitors on campus to be vaccinated with two doses.
This policy remains in place until October 1, when the booster requirement kicks in. Even visitors to the campus will be required to have at least three doses.
The new policy removes all mention of the term “fully vaccinated.”
Booster uptake in Canada has been generally low, especially among youth. According to the latest data, just 36.39% of 18-29 year olds have received three doses or more, with the rate dropping to 19.27% for 12-17 year olds.
In the policy, Western says it will extend a grace period for students who are ineligible for a booster based on when they received their second dose, but this is contingent on them getting boosted “within fourteen days of becoming eligible.”
Fanshawe College, a large public college also in London, announced last week it was doing away with its vaccine mandate altogether.
A Western administrator said the decision was about “safety.”
“This decision supports the safety of our students, employees and our community with the goal of preserving our in-person experience,” said Dr. Sonya Malone, Western’s occupational health physician. “The last school year showed us that our campus community was on board with the masking and vaccination policy, which was the key to successfully completing the fall and winter terms in person.”
Western is evidently not confident the booster requirement will stamp out viral spread on campus as the university warns it may still bring back mask and social distancing requirements.
“The University may implement further health and safety measures, including, but not limited to, measures in respect of mandatory masking and physical distancing,” the policy says.
The updated policy remains in place for at least a year, meaning students who have not received three doses of a Covid vaccine will be excluded from any on-campus classes in the winter and summer terms as well.
Even online students are affected by the policy if their courses require in-person exam attendance.
Western University formally announced the policy after True North sent a request for comment. This article has been updated to include the university’s explanation for the policy.