Despite the way that the university’s position on vaccination has fallen short over and over throughout the many updates students received this summer, it is now clear that U of T takes the health and safety of students seriously by partly closing the massive loophole that allowed unvaccinated people to regularly come to campus.
This was an inspired move by the university. A trust-based system is definitely not the best approach when the health of the entire community is on the line, and demanding that students provide proof of vaccination ensures that all campus visitors can rest assured that everyone else present on campus is also vaccinated. Even though UCheck results aren’t being monitored in the majority of campus buildings, the mere existence of a verification system motivates people to be fully vaccinated.
Several countries have already implemented vaccine passports in one form or another. Perhaps, most famous is France, where proof of vaccination is required to access planes, trains, restaurants, bars, or any other venue that accommodates more than 50 people.
Even here in Canada, vaccine passports are now a reality. Recently, Québec’s vaccine passport system came into effect, and Ontario, British Columbia, and Manitoba also have plans to implement vaccine passports in the near future.
Having students submit proof of vaccination on UCheck, in a system heavily resembling a vaccine passport, solves most of the issues with the university’s past stances on vaccinations. This system helps ensure that all who come to campus are vaccinated. But, because UCheck results are not monitored as much as they should be, the system does not eliminate the possibility of an individual providing untruthful answers. The threat of being caught without UCheck vaccination confirmation, however, has probably motivated some people to get their shots.
The most secure way to ensure a safe return this fall, protect the most vulnerable, and help in preventing a deadly fourth wave is to mandate that all campus visitors be vaccinated. Vaccine passports help achieve this. The reasoning is simple: if you are not willing to be vaccinated, you forfeit the right to be a part of our in-person U of T community.
Of course, some exceptions are required, and U of T is aware of that. Some people are allergic to certain types of vaccines and need to wait for others to become available before they can safely get vaccinated. Others live in countries where vaccination is not widely available or that don’t have Health Canada approved vaccines and come to Canada before they can get the shot.
But for the vast majority, it is simply time to get vaccinated. No more ifs or buts. No more excuses. No more loopholes. No more alternatives. It is unfair to the vulnerable and to everyone who did their part and got vaccinated to allow unvaccinated people to visit our campus and put themselves and others in danger.
Let’s have our return to campus be a positive one, and let students focus on learning rather than constantly worrying if the person next to them is vaccinated or not. This fall, let’s — as much as we reasonably can — put this pandemic behind us.
Guilherme Patury is a fourth-year peace, conflict and justice student at University College.