The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona has become the first tertiary institution in Jamaica to impose a vaccine mandate.
On Friday, UWI issued a statement saying that it will require all students wanting to live on the campus to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Students currently living on UWI halls have until September 3 to comply with the vaccination mandate.
In a statement, the university said that the requirement is to “ensure a safe living environment for its staff and students.
“Evidence of vaccination, with any of the approved vaccines, must be provided to the relevant student services and development manager in order to secure accommodation in the halls of residence,” the statement said.
It said that students and other persons currently residing in halls who have not received, at a minimum, their first vaccination shot, where applicable, are required to do so by Friday, September 3 in order to remain in the facility.
The move by the Mona campus follows a similar position adopted by the Trinidad-based St. Augustine campus that earlier this month informed staff and students that while it has, for now, taken a decision that it will not mandate them to be vaccinated the position may change based on if the matter is legislated or pronounced upon by the courts.
“However, it is to be noted that non-national students and staff must demonstrate to immigration officials that they are fully vaccinated with a World Health Organization (WHO) approved vaccine in order to enter the country,” Pro Vice-Chancellor and Campus Principal, Professor Brian Copeland, said in an email to the staff and students.
“We encourage all staff and students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The data clearly shows that the non-vaccinated remain most vulnerable,” Copeland said.
“WHO-approved vaccines are now widely available throughout the country and have been shown to provide an excellent defence against the COVID-19 virus. The more members of our community who are vaccinated, the greater chance we have of suppressing the COVID-19 virus and the production of mutations. This is also the swiftest path to a full return to campus,” he said, adding that one exception is the case of the Halls of Residence, where “only fully vaccinated students, whether nationals or non-nationals, will be allowed to stay”.
“In any event, non-national students would have to be fully vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine in order to enter the country to take up study,” he said, adding that only two halls of residence will be open for the arrival of residents from August 29.
In its statement on Friday, the Mona campus said that vaccinations are being done daily at the Mona Ageing and Wellness Centre, which is located on the university campus and within walking distance of most halls of residence.
“All that is required for vaccination is a valid government-issued identification,” the statement said, advising that where a resident has received a first shot and is awaiting a second dose, those persons will be allowed to remain on hall.
But it is urging these persons to make the necessary arrangements to receive the second dose.
Some exceptions will be made for students who don’t want to take the vaccine for religious or health reasons, but these students will have to provide proper documentation to be exempted.