An obvious solution or a problem? – Filipino Canadian investigator
In the United States, more than 600 institutions of higher education are requiring students to get vaccinated to return to campus this fall.
In Canada, Seneca College in Ontario makes vaccination mandatory for everyone attending campus. The University of Ottawa and others will require that students living on campus be vaccinated.
The University of Toronto announced that in addition to requiring the vaccination of students living in residence, it will “require that students, faculty, staff and librarians who participate in activities that pose a higher risk of transmission of the disease. COVID-19 are vaccinated – and will require all members of the community to self-report their vaccination status ”on an online platform. The university will use “anonymous aggregate vaccine status data, by campus” to inform health and safety measures.
As September approaches, more post-secondary institutions will announce how they are handling decisions related to COVID-19.
We are two researchers interested in the social and structural determinants of health who have been discussing and writing about the pandemic for 16 months.
We are participating in research on improving knowledge about COVID-19 and protective behaviors, and pandemic stress reduction in various LGBTQ + and racialized people, and how harm reduction programs for people who use drugs, and other drug addiction and HIV prevention services have changed in response to COVID-19[FEMININE[FEMININE
While one of us is more in favor of mandatory vaccination on campus – given the overwhelming evidence for the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine – we are nonetheless both concerned about mandatory vaccination.
Avoid the “battlefield” scenario
Our shared experience in social work, public health, and ethics, including sexual health and HIV research, leads us to believe that mandating vaccination can risk transforming a highly effective and routine public health intervention. into a controversial battlefield.
What might otherwise be everyday health behavior is increasingly fraught with stereotypes and assumptions about political motivations that can divide communities and marginalize individuals and their lived experiences.
Our research has shown us that the reasons for engaging in practices that are often poorly tolerated by health researchers and public health officials, such as sharing drug use equipment, are often complex. And they often make sense in the context of people’s everyday realities.
In the case of people living with HIV and people who use drugs, they often have sophisticated understandings and complex interactions with the health system. These communities often have innovative ideas on how to better meet the needs of their peers.
Mandatory in the public sectors?
The great success of COVID-19 vaccines has led to calls to make them mandatory for healthcare workers, for staff in primary and secondary schools and in other public sectors.
We personally followed public health requirements and were vaccinated. We also recognize that vaccines have been the most powerful public health intervention of the last century. Vaccines save millions of lives every year.
But we also understand that while all those who lack antibodies to the new coronavirus strains are at risk, the risks of infection, morbidity and mortality are influenced by broader socio-political and economic systems. So, COVID-19, like many other infectious diseases that concern public health experts, is rooted in inequity.
Social contexts, inequalities
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities among racialized communities (“visible minorities”) due to systemic racism in the health care system, workplaces and living conditions.
Communities that bear the brunt of systemic racism and continued colonization, including within the healthcare system, may be understandably reluctant or reluctant to get vaccinated. Black and Indigenous communities go through particularly painful histories with harmful state-sponsored medical interventions.
Read more: Contrary to sensational reports, Indigenous peoples are not afraid of a COVID-19 vaccine
Involving these communities in immunization requires cultural humility and respect.
Some people have medical reasons for not getting the vaccine, such as allergies. Others may have religious reasons.
Then there are those who are considered “anti-vaccines,” who reject vaccinations despite evidence of their safety and effectiveness.
In Canada, 70 percent of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. Fifty-six percent are fully immunized.
Risk of infection on campus
We share concerns about the risk of infection on campus and the importance of vaccinating students.
We also see vaccination rates among young people aged 19 to 29 (69 percent at least one dose and 46 percent fully vaccinated) in a positive light, as they only became eligible recently and with vaccine availability issues across Canada. Assuming that single doses result in a full vaccination, we are left with questions about the remaining 31 percent.
We consider two possible positions: compulsory vaccination and vaccine promotion.
In the first scenario, post-secondary institutions consider nearly a third of unvaccinated people to be a threat – to their health and safety, that of other students, faculty and staff on campus.
Aside from the small subset unable to get vaccinated for medical or religious reasons, we end up with young people who may be reluctant to vaccinate. Or possibly anti-vaccination.
With the Delta variant that spreads quickly, unvaccinated people are at considerable risk of infection and transmission to others. Clusters of infection increase the risk of further mutations. Mandatory vaccinations may be necessary in this case. But is something due to the unvaccinated?
As many people return to their workplace, they want flexibility. Many universities have adopted e-learning platforms. If unvaccinated people are not allowed to attend classes in person, online alternatives should be offered to them.
Fears that this may infringe on the privacy of students and expose them to the shame of instructors and classmates must be addressed. Shaming people for their health choices often backfires, sometimes intensifying their beliefs. We envision the online options being extended to all students during this transition period.
Promotion of vaccines
The second scenario, vaccine promotion, considers the role that our respective universities played during the pandemic.
The University of Toronto and the University of Windsor run vaccination clinics and offer expert advice.
The University of Windsor (UW) does not require that students be vaccinated to return to campus at this time. It partners with the UW Students’ Alliance and the WE-Spark Health Institute to promote immunization through peer engagement and accessible information. https://www.youtube.com/embed/9h7a42gejZA?wmode=transparent&start=0 University of Windsor “Take a Jab” campaign.
The approach means that vaccination is readily available, including clinics on campus, and students have time to make the decision about vaccination.
Incentive approaches are another option; they may lead some students “on the fence” to get vaccinated, but they are unlikely to influence those who are really hesitant.
The second scenario creates options for various students from across Canada, with varying levels of vaccine access, to return to campus. This approach may be consistent with the role of universities as strongholds of critical debate. As COVID-19 continues to evolve, it will require continued vigilance.
By envisioning a highly consistent policy, we support both dialogue and community engagement, for which our research in Canada and around the world has provided ample evidence. An important way forward is for higher education leaders to consult with students, faculty and staff.
Universities have a short window to be proactive about the fall and winter semesters. They need to think about what a smoother homecoming might look like for students this time around compared to 2020.
Significantly, they should also think about how they can meaningfully help students, faculty, and staff come back and recover from this exceptionally difficult time – a time that is not over yet.
Peter A. Newman, Professor, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto and Adrian Guta, Associate Professor, School of Social Work, University of Windsor
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.