The University of Guelph has announced all varsity athletes eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine will be required to be fully vaccinated with official confirmation of their vaccination status by Sept. 30 in order to compete this school year.
The decision comes following discussions involving U of G leaders and the Department of Athletics.
According to the U of G, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health has supported this decision.
“We believe this is an important and necessary step to helping ensure health and safety as we continue to plan for a greater return to in-person courses and extracurricular activities in the fall,” said Gwen Chapman, provost and vice-president, in a news release.
During the pandemic, varsity sports were suspended in Ontario due to the high risk of transmission.
Recently, Ontario University Athletics announced plans for a safe return to competitive sports in the fall.
Scott McRoberts, director of U of G’s Department of Athletics, said there is already a strong process in place for providing COVID-19 vaccines to varsity athletes and for monitoring their vaccination status through the University’s Student Health Services.
“We are happy to have learned that most of our varsity athletes are already fully vaccinated,” McRoberts said. “We are now formalizing our vaccination confirmation process, which will help ensure that we are doing everything we can to facilitate a safe return of varsity sports in the fall semester.”
Vaccines are now widely available through on-campus clinics, public health units, pharmacies and doctor’s offices, meaning that no issues should prevent varsity athletes who are able to be vaccinated from receiving both doses before that date, McRoberts said.
The Department of Athletics will inform varsity athletes about how to submit confirmation of their vaccination status during the week of Aug. 9. Students are asked to keep all emails, receipts and records pertaining to their vaccination.
Exemptions will be granted for medical reasons or under grounds protected under the Human Rights Code with further details coming out the week of Aug. 9.
The Department of Athletics plans to implement rapid testing between mid-August and Sept. 30 for teams holding practices; regular testing will continue beyond Sept. 30 for varsity athletes who are not fully vaccinated and require an exemption from the vaccine.
Other health and safety measures – such as mask-wearing, hand-washing, testing, capacity limits in common spaces and regular self-assessment for COVID-19 symptoms – may also be in place during the fall 2021 semester, depending on the latest guidance from public health.
“The University of Guelph has worked hard to continue to provide a safe, welcoming and high-quality learning, working and sporting experience during the global pandemic,” Chapman said.
The university has been unequivocal in its support of vaccination as crucial to combating the global pandemic and ensuring general health and safety.
The city of Guelph has some of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in Ontario; more than 87 per cent of people aged 12 and up have received their first shot and 77 per cent are fully vaccinated.
The University wants to support the continuation of this upward trend, including among students entering or returning to the region, said Chapman. “The University continues to encourage everyone to get fully vaccinated,” she said.
“The University is involved in active discussions with public health officials, scientists and others. We will continue to engage with these experts to inform our decision-making.”The University plans to broaden these discussions and may further extend vaccination requirements, particularly for courses and programs involving close and frequent contact such as the performing arts.