McGill, News

Federal government requires international students to be doubly vaccinated to enter

The rapid rise in cases of the highly transmissible Omicron variant has spurred the Canadian government to implement a restriction requiring all international students entering the country to be fully vaccinated, as of Jan. 15. The Quebec College of Physicians has also called on the government to enforce stricter vaccination requirements, such as mandating three doses of an accepted vaccine in order to hold a vaccine passport. 

The Canadian government considers a person to be fully vaccinated if they have received two doses of an approved vaccine and it has been 14 days past their second dose. Booster shots—a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine—became available in Canada on Jan. 4 and became available to those aged 18 and over in Quebec on Jan. 14. However, Dr.Theresa Tam informed Canadians that the government would not change the definition of a fully vaccinated person. 

Frédérique Mazerolle, a McGill media relations officer, told The McGill Tribune in an email that the administration will respect the Quebec government’s evolving directives regarding the vaccine passport. 

“At McGill, vaccination passports are required to access a wide range of non-essential activities on- and off-campus,” Mazerolle wrote. “[The] university intends to apply the passport to the fullest extent possible under law to provide strong incentives for members of the McGill community to get vaccinated.”

Some international students, however, do not think McGill is doing enough to guide students through the changing safety measures. Anna Tripier, U1 Math and Biology, who is returning to Montreal from the United States, feels that the administration has shown a lack of concern for the wellbeing of its students.

“Though McGill has put a lot of effort into handling vaccination by following the Quebec laws,  I’m actually disappointed with the lack of resources and effort McGill has shown toward helping its students and faculty feel safe,” Tripier told the Tribune.

To help rectify this, Tripier suggests that more testing sites should be made available, along with higher quality tests. More importantly, she believes a university-wide vaccine mandate would be an effective tool in combating COVID-19. 

“I strongly support [a] decision to mandate vaccines,” Tripier said. “I think it’s the fastest way to slow the spread of COVID and reduce the amount of people heavily impacted by it.” 

Lucille Applegate, a U1 Arts student from France, too, is in support of a campus-wide vaccine mandate. The ethics and legality of requiring vaccines has, however, been hotly debated at McGill, with professors from the faculty of Law warning the university  of the liability risk of not imposing a vaccine mandate. Applegate believes that those hesitant about getting vaccinated should “trust science,” even if “it’s new and can be scary.”

Students’ discontent with McGill’s vaccination policies also extends to the federal government’s regulations. Tripier, for instance, has mixed feelings about the Canadian government’s new travel restriction because she worries some international students may not have access to vaccines. Applegate, on the other hand, feels this new rule is a natural progression in Canada’s regulations.

“I think this guideline is the only logical sequence of what Canada’s policy has been for the last few months, especially with the vaccine passport that has been in place,” Applegate remarked. 
As of Jan. 13, the McGill COVID-19 Situation Dashboard reported that 96.3 per cent of students were “adequately vaccinated.” Statistics regarding faculty and staff were last updated on Dec. 9. At the time, McGill reported that 92.2 per cent of McGill faculty and staff were adequately vaccinated. The Quebec government considers “adequately vaccinated” people to be those who have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, who caught COVID-19 in the last six months, or who caught COVID-19 more than six months ago and have received one dose of a COVID vaccine. 

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