Bow Valley College has announced that students and staff will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to be on campus as of Oct. 22, or be subject to rapid testing.
"After careful consideration, overwhelming feedback, and scientific evidence that strongly supports the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, we have decided that vaccinations are essential in keeping our college community safe and healthy," stated a press release from the Calgary-based college, which has campuses in Airdrie and Cochrane.
The college's press release further explained this means students and employees will be required to have two doses of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine, with the second dose administered at least two weeks prior to Oct. 22.
Students and employees will be required to upload proof of vaccination through an online tool, according to the release. Those who choose not to get the jab will be subject to weekly rapid testing. Details of this program have yet to be released.
After Oct. 22, proof of vaccination will still be required for anyone attending campuses, but the rapid testing program will no longer be in place.
Exemptions to the vaccine requirement will be made on medical grounds or other protected grounds under the Alberta Human Rights Act, according to the release.
The decision comes as active COVID-19 cases in Alberta are at a steady incline. As of Sept. 8, there were 15,977 active cases in the province. Of those, 679 individuals are in hospital and 154 require intensive care.
Despite the increase in cases and hospitalizations, total doses of administered vaccine continue to lag, with 78.8 per cent of the eligible population having received one dose and 70.8 percent being fully vaccinated as of Sept. 8. These numbers continue to remain relatively low despite Premier Jason Kenney announcing a $100 incentive to get vaccinated, along with the reinstatement of the mask mandate and a 10 p.m. liquor curfew that kicked in on Sept. 4.
Bow Valley College previously announced that masks would be required for those attending campus, but that vaccinations would not be. Neighbouring institutions including the University of Calgary, Mount Royal University, and the University of Lethbridge also introduced mask mandates prior to Kenney's Sept. 3 announcement.
The college has also announced that all campuses – including those in Airdrie and Cochrane – will remain closed to the general public until further notice. In-person internal and external events will be suspended until at least Nov. 1.
"Students and employees are encouraged to remain on campus only as long as necessary and are asked to socially distance where possible, as well as wear a mask," the release stated.