By: Grace Rajballie | October 22, 2021
Disclaimer: The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the personal opinions of the author on the COVID-19 vaccine or Redeemer’s vaccine policy. All quotes were collected by Grace Rajballie and have been presented as anonymous to protect the privacy of the individuals.
In response to the ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic, the Ontario government made an announcement on August 17, 2021 stating that COVID-19 vaccination policies would be mandatory for high-risk settings, which includes post-secondary institutions. By mandating vaccination policies, the Ontario government requires every public and private post-secondary institution to make an official policy regarding COVID-19 vaccinations. In compliance with the law, Redeemer released the following policy:
“In order to mitigate the risk of severe illness and the transmission of COVID-19 on campus, all faculty, staff and students coming to campus are required to provide proof of full vaccination or to have completed a COVID-19 education module and have a negative rapid antigen test within the last week. The policy requirements are in effect as of September 13, 2021.”
Each post-secondary school in Ontario has released a COVID-19 vaccination policy, with varying rules and regulations for its students, staff, and faculty. The COVID-19 vaccination policy created by Mohawk College is similar to Redeemer’s. Like Redeemer, Mohawk requires that all students who are not fully vaccinated complete a COVID-19 education module and complete regular rapid antigen testing.
However, unlike Redeemer, Mohawk College has declined residence to students who are unvaccinated. Mohawk’s policy states, “In order to welcome more students back to the Mohawk College Residence, in consultation with Hamilton Public Health, the college is adopting a mandatory vaccination requirement for all students wishing to stay in the residence starting in the Fall 2021 semester.”
In contrast to Redeemer, McMaster has taken a very vocal stance on their beliefs regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. McMaster has various COVID-19 related resources on their website as well as a full .pdf file of their vaccination policy. The policy is complex, and while there appears to be some exemptions for unvaccinated individuals, McMaster highly discourages them from coming to campus.
Redeemer’s vaccination policy has created some tension and division among students. While many recognize that Redeemer’s vaccination policy was released in compliance with provincial government regulations and is more inclusive to unvaccinated students than other post-secondary policies, some students feel that the policy has created unnecessary division within the community. One student states that it seems unfair and illogical that vaccinated students are able to answer ‘no’ on the health check form, to the following question, even if they live with an individual displaying COVID-19 symptoms, whereas unvaccinated students must select ‘yes’.
“Is anyone that you live with currently experiencing any new COVID-19 symptoms and/or waiting for a test result after experiencing symptoms? If you are fully vaccinated, select ‘no.’”
The same student suggests that Redeemer’s system for implementing rapid testing at the school has been set up in such a way that clearly displays who the unvaccinated students are. This can be problematic for various reasons, these students may not want their vaccination status disclosed.
“You can see who goes into the testing centre week by week, so you know who isn’t vaccinated, and some people might actually choose to avoid people who are unvaccinated. I know Redeemer is doing their best, but could more be said to encourage an inclusive community? Could Redeemer state that they are implementing this system because they are following government protocol and not because they are expressing their own beliefs or standpoint about the vaccine?”
Another student expresses similar frustrations. While they are grateful that unvaccinated students still have the choice to complete their studies in person, they believe that the rules and regulations set in place by Redeemer treat vaccinated and unvaccinated students differently, and at times, unfairly.
“I am appreciative of the freedom Redeemer has extended towards unvaccinated students attending in-person; however, I have encountered some frustrations. Students who are unvaccinated and COVID-19-negative are forced to self-isolate when identified as close-contact, whereas vaccinated individuals are good to go. Seeing that positive cases have entered the school through vaccinated individuals, this makes little sense and just makes experiences harder for unvaccinated people. I am sure Redeemer has good intentions, but I find this personally frustrating and logically unstable.”
However, some individuals at Redeemer believe that the policy is lacking and further rules and regulations should be implemented. One professor at Redeemer expresses their disappointment in the policy, as they believe Redeemer could be doing more to prevent the transmission and spread of COVID-19. While the university followed the provincial mandate to release a COVID-19 vaccination policy, this professor believes that the policy was made to simply meet the requirement:
“When it comes to the Redeemer policy, Redeemer, in my estimation, did the least possible to meet the guidelines provided by Public Health. I approve of the policy as far as it goes; I wish it went further.”
For one student living on campus, the vaccination mandate has proved to be a source of reassurance: “I appreciate the vaccine mandate, as I think Redeemer has implemented it with the intention of preventing an outbreak. As someone living on campus, when there are outbreaks we are affected (e.g. dorm restrictions). However, I think that Redeemer made the right decision in not making the vaccine absolutely mandatory. I certainly support the science behind the vaccine, but we have to support people’s individual decisions to not want to get it.”
Another student I spoke with argued that government mandates for COVID-19 vaccination can lead to placing vaccination status ahead of our own humanity in daily social interactions. He expressed that we should try to fight against these divisive narratives. His suggestion? Implementing mandatory rapid testing for all, regardless of vaccination status. “This could help catch potential breakthrough infections as well as ease the stigma associated with the test. We should be focusing our efforts on loving and understanding our fellow students, staff, and faculty rather than letting assumptions rule our actions.”
So what do we do with a community that feels divided, with policies and regulations that have the power to affect not only our health but also our relationships with one other? One student pointedly reminds us of our primary identity,
“My biggest issue with the vaccine mandate is that we have created an atmosphere of judgement and prejudice against the “other” group (vaccinated and unvaccinated) because of it. As someone who has loved ones on both “sides,” I’m so tired of hearing people try to tear others apart. We have focused so much on trying to convince the people we disagree with that our opinion is better that we forget to see those around us as our brothers and sisters in Christ first.”
Evidently, Redeemer’s vaccine policy has been divisive among some students, staff, and faculty. It is only natural that as individuals who come from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences we hold differing opinions on the rules and regulations surrounding this pandemic. While we are each entitled to our own opinions, it is important that we are willing to at least hear the opinion of the “other” while still recognizing the Imago Dei.