US homestay program introduces vaccination requirement

Cheryl Ernst, executive director of the American English Institute at the University of Oregon, explained it just makes sense to require homestay hosts to be vaccinated. The school already demands this of students and employees.

Ernst said she has received no pushback about the rule. “We have told students that we expect them to be vaccinated if they want to live with a host family,” she explaind. “We wouldn’t ask them to do it if we don’t expect the same from the hosts.”

“They are asking for confirmation that students assigned to their homes are vaccinated”

About 20 hosts have dropped out of Oregon’s program, although Ernst doesn’t know whether they have moved, are no longer interested or don’t want to get vaccinated.

“We just haven’t heard back from them so we have moved them to our inactive list,” she said.

Hosts who are participating this fall appreciate the vaccination policy. “They are asking for confirmation that students assigned to their homes are vaccinated,” Ernst added.

Hosts are not being asked to provide proof of their vaccination status – the program is using the honour system.

After a quiet summer with just 16 students, the program has grown this fall to 61 participants. With some students staying in dorms, 21 families will be hosting. Any students who have not been vaccinated prior to arrival are being directed to an on-campus clinic to get their shots.

University of Oregon is holding in-person classes this fall. Those who have a medical exemption or are not yet fully vaccinated must undergo weekly Covid-19 testing. Everyone entering a university building must wear a face covering.

Jennifer Wilson of the Canada Homestay Network, which serves post-secondary, K-12 and language programs, said earlier this year that vaccinations had been a non-issue for homestays so far.

“We’ve spoken to many of our client educators over the last couple of weeks, and the unanimous word on the street is that nobody is mandating vaccination of students, and many are not even asking,” she said.

“It’s considered a private health care matter, and the choice to vaccinate is considered a personal one (like a flu shot), rather than a mandatory one (like mumps, measles, rubella). So, that’s the policy: students will be free to choose.”

While many homestay hosts have chosen to get vaccinated, the Canada Homestay Network is not asking them to divulge this information.

“We have been informing all our clients that host vaccination status is considered private and confidential, and we will not consider matching restrictions based on vaccine status,” Wilson said. “We have had zero pushback on this, and no request for such information at all.”

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