The University of Toronto has backtracked on its COVID-19 vaccination policy and will now require students and staff to show proof they’ve been immunized when classes return this fall.
The move comes after an outcry against the university’s previous policy, which required only students living on-site or participating in “high risk activities”, such as sports and music, to show proof of vaccination. Other students would declare their vaccine status using a screening app and if unvaccinated, would need to submit to twice weekly testing.
U of T staff criticized the policy, saying it was too reliant on trusting people to declare their vaccine status accurately.
But in a statement provided to CBC News on Tuesday, a U of T spokesperson said the policy had now been updated to reflect this week’s announcement from Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health. Moore said employers in key health and education sectors, including universities, needed to have COVID-19 vaccination policies in place for staff in the coming weeks.
“This September, all members of the university community — including students, staff, faculty, and librarians — will be required to provide proof of full vaccination or register in the university’s rapid screening program, where results will need to be uploaded regularly,” the spokesperson said.
The twice-weekly rapid screening program would also provide “educational supports and access to vaccination clinics” to those who remain unvaccinated.
Faculty members criticized U of T after the announcement of its previous self declaration policy, which would have allowed those not immunized to be on university grounds if they had a negative test within 72 hours of going to campus and completed rapid screening tests twice a week.
Terezia Zoric, the president of the U of T faculty association, called the policy a “public relations exercise” that essentially amounted to “smoke and mirrors.”
U of T responded that there was no legal framework or supporting tools such as a vaccine passport to seek proof of vaccination.
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