Back-to-school season is right around the corner and post-secondary students are voicing their concerns over COVID-19 and vaccinations.
Students’ Union Okanagan of UBC (SUO) VP External Ahmed Ahmed said there have been several worries, especially since UBCO’s student population is diverse and comes from all over the world.
“Some of the concerns are that in Kelowna, there are increasing outbreaks and with the elevated restrictions, some students have some concerns about how UBCO would implement in-person classes,” he said.
“Some of our students come from different countries that have different vaccines. Canada only approved four (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and COVISHIELD), but some of the students have taken other vaccines in their countries and they would need to have a quarantine plan here.”
With classes starting up on Sept. 7, international students would have to arrive in Canada at least by the week of Aug. 22 to fulfill quarantine requirements.
But some countries still have travel restrictions and with flights from India being banned, Indian students may have a bit more of a hard time coming to Canada and attending in-person classes, Ahmed explained.
He added that while regional restrictions mean masks are required on campus, the SUO will still advocate for required masks in public indoor spaces when the restrictions ease to keep staff, faculty and students safe.
“UBC has also been working closely with the government since the start of COVID to ensure that UBC is following the most recent guidelines given by Interior Health and the Syilx Nation,” he said.
Besides all the work they have already done, they plan to do more.
“We will have pop-up vaccinations on campus, which is a good step for our international students to come to campus and receive the vaccine here. This way there are fewer barriers and we’ll see a bigger percentage of vaccinated students,” he said.
Though the date of the immunization clinics is still in the works, Ahmed said he’s hopeful September will see an increase in vaccination rates in the region as a result.
“Personally, I’m an international student myself and I’m very excited for in-person learning. Talking to students on campus, everyone is excited for in-person learning despite the concerns,” he said.
“The situation is changing a lot but we’re still excited. Student safety is our first priority, so we’re working hard to ensure a safe return to the campus.”
Ahmed acknowledged that while in-person classes are important, equally integral to the student experience are the campus activities and clubs, which SUO is working on to make happen in a safe manner while still being open to Interior Health’s directives.
“It all depends on the restrictions and updates we get from Interior Health. We do have a limit on indoor gatherings, so that means our events and club days will have those changes too. All of those events and activities depend on what Interior Health says is safe.”