SFU’s vaccine declaration survey is ineffective at protecting students

The university needs to do more to accurately understand campus vaccination rates

Screenshot of SFU's vaccine declaration survey with four options: 1) Yes, I am fully vaccination. 2) No, I am partially vaccinated. 3) No, I am not vaccinated. 4)I do not wish to disclose my vaccination status. Fourth option is chosen with information on getting vaccinated at SFU below.
Having the option to not disclose your vaccination status defeats the purpose of a declaration survey. Screenshot: Lubaba Mahmud / The Peak

By Michelle Young, Copy Editor

On August 26, president Joy Johnson released an announcement stating SFU is “working to implement mandatory self-disclosure of vaccination status for all those who access our campuses.” In the next sentence, she wrote there would be regular rapid testing “for those who are not vaccinated or choose not to disclose their vaccination status.” But if students can choose to not disclose their status, how in the world is it mandatory? This is only the beginning of what is an unclear and poor method in assessing SFU’s vaccination rates. 

Students deserve to have an understanding of how COVID-19 may spread on campus, and they can’t do that unless SFU implements a better way to assess how many students, faculty, and staff are truly vaccinated. 

Upon taking the survey, I was shocked to see that SFU does not ask for proof of vaccination in it. While SFU stated they “may” ask for this in the future, the process should have been polished before the semester started.

As of now, there is nothing stopping anyone from lying about their vaccination status. Those who take the survey simply need to check a box that states their claim is true. This relies on all students and staff to truthfully declare whether they are vaccinated, which doesn’t give me much faith in the accuracy of the results. 

So far, it seems as though someone who didn’t want to be bothered with regular rapid tests could simply indicate they were fully vaccinated, and that would be the end of it. No follow-ups, SFU would just leave them to roam the university. This would create an immense false sense of security on campus. Even though the preliminary results from the survey demonstrated vaccination rates upwards of 90%, they could very well be much lower, because currently, there’s no way to tell whether the results are accurate.  

It is also unclear how SFU is mandating the “required” survey. Are they simply stating it’s mandatory without any enforcement? I haven’t seen any indication of consequences put in place for those who don’t complete it. For those who glaze through the mass amount of emails SFU students send to students, I wouldn’t be surprised if some had never heard of this at all. Coupled with the murky idea of what “mandatory” means, this method of assessment is currently filled with loopholes. 

Supposedly, those who don’t disclose their status or are unvaccinated will need to complete “regular” rapid testing. However, there is no information on how often this will be. Testing does not prevent infection, and COVID-19 is most contagious a few days before symptoms. Frankly, I cannot imagine staff or students wanting to go through the hassle of daily rapid tests. Even more confusing is how SFU will mandate these tests when the surveys are anonymous. 

SFU’s attempt to grasp our vaccination rates is messy and poorly executed. While SFU stated more information would be coming soon, we’re already a few weeks into the semester. Students are in classes, interacting with one another, and we don’t even have a clear sense of how many people are fully vaccinated. As of the first week, only about 50% of students had disclosed their vaccination status, and this is under the assumption they were all truthful.

SFU could add more steps into the survey — such as asking for proof of vaccination. They should also ensure the survey is completed by not solely relying on the community to do it themselves. I’m no expert in SFU’s IT systems, but I wonder if they could have required disclosure during course registration. However, weeks into the semester, vaccination rates are still unclear. After over a year of mandatory COVID-19 rules being outright ignored, I don’t understand how they ever thought this was a sound idea.

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