Campus vaccine clinics part of a new semester for post-secondary students in the Maritimes

After being quiet for a year-and-a-half, the campus at Saint Mary's University in Halifax is bustling again.

The return of in-person learning bringing with it a feeling of excitement.

“I'm happy we are back,” says psychology student Oluwadolapo Ifesanya. “Now I can make friends, compared to online classes.”

For Najwan Albarghouthi, the feeling on campus is positive and upbeat. Last year, she completed her PhD in chemistry virtually.

Now, she’s excited to be a chemistry lab instructor at SMU and is looking forward to seeing her students face-to-face, albeit from a distance and wearing a mask. The last time she was in a university lecture room was in 2019.

“It's different definitely being on campus, it is really nice,” she says. “It’s so beneficial for us, for students, for faculty, for everybody.”

The president of the Saint Mary’s University Students’ Association, Franklyn Southwell, says students are happy to be back.

“It’s been over a year-and-a half, we were going through this ‘virtual reality,'” Southwell says.

“I've interacted with so many students over the past couple weeks, and they're just so grateful to be back.”

Many universities and colleges in the Maritimes are operating under vaccination mandates for students, faculty, and staff this semester. A few others are recommending full vaccination.
Those who cannot, or chose not, to be vaccinated, are being asked to be tested regularly.

Masks are also the rule in public areas, including classrooms.

Walk in vaccination clinics on campus are now a common sight - another sign things are not exactly as they were before COVID-19.

At the Nova Scotia Health vaccination clinic set up in the Homburg Centre at SMU - public health administered 101 vaccine doses on Tuesday, 57 of which were first shots.

“One thing that we wanted to advocate for was accessibility,” says Southwell. “Which is what we got, and I can tell you that it's been a resounding success.”

For many students, this semester marks their first time on campus, even if it's not their first year.

“We actually have two groups of welcoming classes coming in this year, because of COVID and them not being able to be on campus for their first year,” says the SMUSA vice-president, external, Adrian White.

“So we've definitely had to step up our service delivery in making sure that the students are all aware of the services that are available to them here,” White adds.

At the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, Student Union president Kordell Walsh says the UNB Safe App allows students and staff to register their vaccination status with the administration.

They are then sent a confirmation QR code, after which he says the university deletes the information from its records.

Walsh says the union has been pushing to make sure students can get vaccinated easily and that no one is denied access to education.

“We’re happy with how things are going,” he says. “And we're just continuing to push the university to provide as much information to students as possible.”

All these measures being taken are with one goal in mind – that goal, summed up by Ifesanya.

“A smoother year, and hopefully an end to this pandemic,” she says.