'A matter of public health’: Student creates petition asking UBC to mandate vaccines

A UBC student has launched a petition asking UBC to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for all students, faculty and staff who live on campus.

The petition, which has 146 signatures as of publishing, also asks that the university host a vaccination drive on campus and release a public statement that encourages those off-campus to receive their vaccines. This petition was created just before the AMS released a fiery public letter to UBC admin to mandate masks and vaccines on campus — a proposal that was shut down by VP Students Ainsley Carry.

Achinth Bharadwaj, the fourth-year statistics and computer science student who started the petition, said the idea of mandating vaccines is “definitely a matter of public health [as] we want our students to be safe.”

Bharadwaj said he recognizes there may be logistical challenges with such a large number of people on the UBC campus. But to address that, they suggested the vaccine drive and that the university provide resources for students who don’t live on campus on where to get vaccinated.

“We want to be able to [achieve] herd immunity because there's so many people who cannot get the vaccine because they come from a country where they don't get vaccines or maybe they're allergic to some of the contents of the vaccine,” said Bharadwaj. “They also deserve to be protected from COVID-19 and they're protected when the majority of the people get the vaccine.”

“It's not just about hosting a vaccination drive. It’s also about fostering a sense of ownership amongst all the students and staff and faculty that they feel empowered to go get vaccinations,” said Bharadwaj.

The response to the petition has overall been positive, but there has been some backlash from those who believe mandating vaccines goes against their personal beliefs.

But Bharadwaj brushed off that criticism.

“If your personal belief system directly or indirectly hurts other people, you should check again that what you're doing is not harming people or potentially harming people,” said Bharadwaj. The university has not reached out to Bharadwaj about the petition.

In an emailed statement to The Ubyssey, Director of University Affairs at UBC Media Relations Matthew Ramsey affirmed that vaccines will not be required for individuals to be on campus.

“It has been recommended that post-secondary institutions do not introduce prevention measures that are different from those recommended by the Provincial Health Officer. In addition, there are equity, privacy, human rights, employment law and operational practicality considerations that inform the university’s decisions regarding vaccines,” he wrote.

While having a vaccination is not required, Ramsey noted that it is strongly encouraged and recommended.

On July 27, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry indicated that students in residence may need proof of vaccination, contrary to what the Ministry of Health had told The Ubyssey before.