Otago University wants compulsory vaccination for all

Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Nicholson. Photo: Supplied.
Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Nicholson. Photo: Supplied.
The University of Otago is proposing making Covid-19 vaccinations, or government-approved exemptions, compulsory for all staff, students, contractors and visitors next year.

If approved, the requirement would come into effect from January 10.

Consultation with staff has begun and a decision will be announced on Tuesday, December 7.

The university has already decided upon mandatory vaccinations for those staying in its Residential Colleges in 2022, and also has a number of staff, students and buildings affected by the Government’s Public Health Order for Health and Education workers and workplaces.

Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Nicholson told staff in an email today that the position paper had been developed after ''weeks of consideration of our situation, new Government regulations, initial feedback from all staff and feedback from student representatives''.

“It also takes account of possible developments in Covid-19 itself, including the potential appearance and spread of new and more virulent strains.

“As previously signalled, University leadership firmly believes that vaccination against Covid-19 is critical for keeping our community safe. Vaccinations play a primary role in protecting the wellbeing, health and safety of our University community, and everyone we interact with in our wider community.

“In the course of our work, we have contact and we interact with each other and groups of people, some of whom are vulnerable, on a regular basis. Covid-19 vaccines are an effective way to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading the virus.”

Prof Nicholson also noted that, if approved, the mandatory vaccination policy would give the university more options to remain open in the new traffic light system under each level.

“If everyone is vaccinated, under the Orange Level operating the university is significantly less restricted. For example, under both Orange Level and Green Level, if all participants are vaccinated events and gatherings can proceed without restrictions on gathering numbers and physical distancing.

''In effect, the new framework and guidelines mean that for us to continue to deliver a high standard of teaching, research and outreach in 2022 we will need everyone possible to be vaccinated on our campuses and University-owned or leased premises.”

A survey on how comfortable university staff felt on campus if  everyone was vaccinated showed strong support for vaccines, with only 3% of staff saying they disagreed or strongly disagreed, she said.

Consultation with student organisations, the Otago University Students' Association, Te Roopū Māori O Te Whare Wananga O Otago and the University of Otago Pacific Island Students' Association, also confirmed support for vaccinations.

Staff have been asked to provide feedback on the position paper by Friday.

If put in place, students and staff who have government-approved exemptions to the vaccine will be able to attend study and work as usual.

Staff who choose not to be vaccinated will have their employment options worked through with HR, while students who choose not to be vaccinated may be able to choose from a limited range of online study options.







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