Over the last few weeks, Saskatchewan has started implementing more public health measures to fend off the fourth wave of COVID-19, including policies of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination to access many public spaces. There is good reason for this — vaccine mandates are a proven success.
It is now a requirement to show proof of vaccination or a negative test result for COVID-19, in order to access many businesses or event venues like bars, liquor stores and music concerts.
The University of Saskatchewan has had vaccination mandates in place since the beginning of the semester for anyone using campus facilities — access to the campus will not be granted unless a person can show proof of a vaccination or negative test for COVID-19. Just this week, an announcement was made that, as of Jan. 4, 2022, negative test results will no longer be accepted. This means no one will be able to access the university campus unless they can show proof of being fully vaccinated.
As is to be expected, there has been some hesitancy from Canadians about getting the COVID-19 vaccine amid concerns about the safety or validity of the vaccines. These sentiments are particularly strong in Saskatchewan, where vaccination rates are the lowest in the country — this might stem from distrust in the vaccine, the medical community, or the government. False information, widely spread online, feeds into these concerns.
However, it’s important to remember that these mandates are being introduced because vaccines and mandating them for large populations are effective in preventing the spread of diseases.
This is something we know from history.
Vaccine mandates in Canada date back to the 19th century, when some of the first vaccines for smallpox were introduced. There was also pushback against these, and it took years before the majority of the public was vaccinated. But once large-scale vaccination in the community was accomplished, it had the desired effect — today, smallpox has been declared officially eradicated.
And this is not the only notable example of the effectiveness of vaccines.
How many people do you know with polio? Or the measles, mumps or diphtheria? Your answer is probably zero, and you have vaccines to thank for this too.
The existence of vaccines, and the fact that many people are able or required to get them, means there are many diseases that we forget even existed.
Or, at the very least, in the rare case that someone catches a disease like the measles, there is little worry about the illness being detrimental to that person’s health. Our understanding of science has evolved enough to give us ways to fight back against the potentially harmful aspects of many medical conditions and diseases.
In contrast, before vaccines, thousands of people died from diseases like polio and smallpox without the proper healthcare to save them.
Just as vaccine mandates are not new, neither is misinformation or protest surrounding them. There were pushback, riots and protests when the first smallpox vaccines were being introduced in Canada over 100 years ago. Today, we see outrage and protests against COVID-19 vaccine mandates, both within Saskatchewan and across Canada.
It’s important to get all of your information about COVID-19 from scientifically valid sources. Before you listen to anyone on the internet, from sources such as social media sites or opinion pieces, talk to your doctor. Or, just take a look at the numerous historical instances, like those of smallpox and the measles, and scientific studies on the efficiency and usefulness of COVID-19 vaccines.
Vaccine mandates are not being introduced without good cause or scientific evidence. As a province we are struggling — failing, even — to fight off COVID-19, and the only thing that can turn this fight around is if everyone who is able to gets vaccinated.
Just as today’s generation doesn’t have to worry about smallpox, there might come a day when COVID-19 won’t weigh as heavily on us as a community, mandates will be lifted and life will start returning to some semblance of normal. But this will only happen if everyone gets vaccinated. The longer people hold off on getting the shot, the longer COVID-19 is going to continue to impact all of our lives so heavily.
This op-ed was written by a University of Saskatchewan undergraduate student and reflects the views and opinions of the writer. If you would like to write a reply, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Beth is a second-year undergraduate student studying history.