Letter from Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang on Vaccination Policy for Post-secondary Institutions

Posted on Thursday July 22, 2021

As post-secondary institutions across Ontario prepare for students to return to in-person learning and on campus living for the 2021-2022 academic year, ensuring high rates of vaccination among the student population will be critical to Ontario’s pandemic control.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and in particular, the Delta variant have had a significant impact on Waterloo Region. Since the second wave of the pandemic, overall case volumes have been highest among those age 20-29 years. While COVID-19 tends to be less severe among younger people, variants of concern have led to an increase in ICU admission rates across all age groups. Furthermore, due to the higher contact rates of younger populations, transmission among this age group has contributed to sustaining community transmission.

Congregate living settings also pose unique risks for transmission of COVID-19. On-campus residences are high density, contain shared common spaces, and may present challenges to effective isolation should a student become infected. For these reasons, the highest two-dose vaccination coverage achievable among the student population will be our strongest tool to prevent local outbreaks, including in such settings, in the upcoming academic year.

Region of Waterloo Public Health strongly recommends vaccination in all members of our community and that post-secondary institutions in Waterloo Region pursue policy options that would facilitate the highest vaccination coverage possible among its population, as well as readily available and convenient access to vaccines through your post-secondary health services. I strongly encourage a mandatory reporting of immunization policy for students who choose to live on-campus in residences, which would substantially increase vaccine uptake. This could include a requirement for proof of vaccination against COVID-19 (or proof of exemption) for all individuals residing in on-campus residences. Ontario’s Immunization of School Pupils Act and its associated regulations provide an example of a similar immunization policy, as well as an approach to providing rare and reasonable exemptions. Vaccination rates for the vaccines covered under the Act in Ontario schools are all very high.

Thank you for working to support the health and safety of our community.


Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang
Commissioner and Medical Officer of Health
Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services

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