"It's a small sacrifice:" Western nursing student responds to vaccine mandate

Header image for the article "It's a small sacrifice:" Western nursing student responds to vaccine mandate Credit: JHVEPHOTO
Students, staff and faculty at Western University will need to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine to attend campus in the fall.

Reaction has been pouring in on social media from students following Western University’s announcement to mandate COVID19 vaccines for all staff, students and faculty.

While a survey conducted by the university found that more than 90 percent of respondents said they were already fully vaccinated against the virus, some have raised concerns regarding freedom and personal rights. Western has stated that only those with approved exemption status will be allowed to opt out of receiving the vaccine, and can instead get tested for COVID-19 twice a week.

Nursing student at Western University, and former Fanshawe College student, Salma Hussein said she recognized that the decision was likely a tough call, but one that needed to be made.

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“I know it can seem unfair to some people because it puts them in a tough position to express their freedoms, however, my peers and I have seen firsthand what this virus has done to so many people,” said Hussein. “I have lost family this summer to the virus, I have lost patients, and I don’t want to see any more loved ones, colleagues, or classmates be subject to COVID19. The vaccine doesn’t guarantee immunity but it reduces the risk of infection and hospitalization, a step that I believe will bring us closer to whatever normalcy we had before the pandemic.”

In a statement, Western said they carefully consulted with public health officials as well as faculty in the medical science department to determine whether the decision was the right move. The university had previously stated it would only mandate vaccines for students living in residence and students competing in varsity athletics, with Western president Alan Shepard claiming the school had, “gone as far as it could go legally.”

According to Hussein, though, students were hoping the mandate would change. 

“I think many of us were hoping for it,” she said. “We want to feel safe at school and experience university life to the fullest. I think it’s a small sacrifice (especially if you are healthy enough) to take the vaccine in order to regain some normalcy.”

Western was also notably the first post-secondary institution to require proof of a vaccination, something Hussein said could be problematic for students and staff that are unable, not unwilling, to get the jab.

“My first reaction was a concern for peers who could possibly react badly to the vaccine,” said Hussein. “When I saw the email, I didn’t react much at first because I had already submitted proof of vaccination but then I thought about my colleagues and patients at work who were immunocompromised and weren’t cleared to take the vaccine yet. I assumed that some of my peers may also have this problem.”

Overall, Hussein believes the decision is a step in the right direction.

“If we want to regain our Western student experience and put the pandemic behind us, we have to work towards this goal as a unified community,” she said.

At this time, Fanshawe College has said it will not mandate vaccinations for all, but will require proof of a vaccine for varsity athletes and students living in residence. 

“The college’s top priority remains the health and safety of students, faculty, staff and the communities it serves. Fanshawe will continue to follow public health guidelines on how to safely deliver exceptional learning experiences for its students,” the college wrote in a recent media release.

UPDATE: This article includes information regarding COVID-19 vaccination policies at Fanshawe College. Since the publishing of this article, the college has announced that COVID-19 vaccinations will be mandatory to attend campus in the fall. Those who are not yet fully vaccinated, or have an approved exemption, will be required to participate in testing. Visit fanshawec.ca/covid-19 for more information