UBC will continue with rapid testing program for undeclared, unvaccinated community members

Against the recommendation of public health, UBC is continuing its weekly rapid testing program for unvaccinated and partially-vaccinated students, faculty and staff and individuals who choose not to declare their vaccine status, against public health’s recommendation.

On November 29, 2021, UBC received a letter from Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) recommending the suspension of UBC’s weekly rapid testing program for undeclared, partially vaccinated and unvaccinated community members.

According to VCH, UBC had “a very low incidence rate” of COVID-19 at the time, with less than three cases per 100,000 people per day. Additionally, 96.5 per cent of those who disclosed their vaccination status to the university were fully vaccinated.

Dr. Michael Schwandt, medical health officer at VCH, also reported that as of November 29, “out of over 3,000 rapid tests conducted at UBC, only one has been positive.”

“Following evaluation of surveillance and vaccination data, and in consultation with the BC Centre for Disease Control, we would advise UBC leaders that ongoing mandatory rapid tests for unvaccinated personnel, and related employment/academic sanctions, are not required for COVID-19 control in the campus community,” Schwandt wrote at the time.

“Vancouver Coastal Health will continue to closely monitor the epidemiology of COVID-19 at UBC and other post-secondary contexts, and remains committed to working closely with universities and colleges in the region.”

However, in January 2022, UBC said it will continue its rapid testing program for individuals who are partially vaccinated, unvaccinated, and for those who choose not to declare their vaccine status “as a campus safety measure,” said Matthew Ramsey, director of university affairs at UBC Media Relations, in an email statement.

In contrast, The University of Victoria closed down its similar rapid testing program on January 11, 2022.

“The clinic fulfilled its purpose and will be repurposed in the coming weeks to support the PHO and province's ongoing rapid testing strategy,” a note on UVic’s website states.

When The Ubyssey asked VCH twice about its current stance on UBC continuing its rapid testing program, media relations would not directly comment on UBC, and only commented on changing testing guidelines province-wide.