Waterloo recently received new advice from the Medical Officer of Health for the Region of Waterloo that strongly recommended a change to our plans for students living in residences. In response to the advice, Waterloo will now require that students living in our residences for the 2021-2022 academic year be vaccinated against COVID-19.    

“We need to make this change as we know that people who live in congregate living spaces face unique risks for transmission of COVID-19,” says Vivek Goel, president and vice-chancellor. “The Delta variant has had a significant effect on our region and we know that during recent weeks, overall case volumes have been highest among those age 20-29 years. Making sure that students who live in residences have very high rates of vaccination helps protect them and our whole community.”   

Students in residence should aim to be fully vaccinated with both doses before their move-in date and provide the University with proof of vaccination. If the timing is challenging for some residents to meet, the minimum requirement is that students have received their first dose of a Health Canada approved vaccine, or World Health Organization approved vaccine before they move in. Students must also get a second dose of an approved vaccine as soon as possible within the recommended time period and provide proof that they have done so by November 1, 2021.   

Residents who can’t get a vaccine due to medical reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code will be able to submit a request for accommodation. 

“On-campus residences are high density, contain shared common spaces, and may present challenges to effective isolation should a student become infected,” stated Hsiu-Li Wang, Waterloo Region’s Medical Officer of Health in a letter that outlines the advice. “For these reasons, the highest two-dose vaccination coverage achievable among the student population will be our strongest tool to prevent local outbreaks, including in such settings, in the upcoming academic year.”  

The Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association (WUSA) has also expressed support for the new vaccination requirement. “We are confident that these decisions are grounded in the best available evidence and will prioritize the health, safety and well-being of our communities,” says Stephanie Ye-Mowe, vice-president education on behalf of WUSA. “As a representative for students, we will continue to collaborate with the Region and the University of Waterloo to understand the impact of these guidelines and mitigate undue burdens, especially on immuno-compromised and international students.”  

While the University doesn’t require a vaccine to come to our campuses, public health strongly recommends vaccination for all community members at post-secondary institutions. University leadership is also urging everyone in the UWaterloo community to get first and second doses as soon as possible. Health Services is offering COVID-19 vaccines to everyone on campus.    

As Waterloo Region entered the third step of the province’s reopening plans last week, some public health measures were relaxed in response to positive trends in vaccinations and a drop in transmission rates. The University will continue to work within guidelines to expand in-person experiences in the fall. However, the academic plans for the fall term remain in place.   

For additional information and FAQs, visit the COVID-19 information website, where the most up-to-date information is posted.