Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a news conference on the COVID – pandemic in Ottawa, Friday, March . (Justin Tang / Canadian Press)
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today he is reluctant to introduce a system of vaccine passports to show proof of immunization because of lingering concerns about inequities – but such a system might be necessary for international travel.
Some experts have suggested that the best way to return life to normal in Canada is to create a smartphone app – not unlike the existing COVID alert app – containing digital proof that an individual has been immunized against COVID – 12. Such a “vaccine passport” system could allow for the resumption of mass gatherings like major sporting events and concerts.
It could also be used by some businesses, like restaurants and bars, to restrict entry to those who’ve gotten a shot.
A paper-based system could also be implemented for the less digitally inclined, like the system in Israel which allows individuals to carry proof that they’ve received a double dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
More than half of all adults in Israel have received at least one shot of the two-dose regimen. The Israeli government has established a “green pass” system that allows people to bypass social distancing and masking requirements if they can show evidence of vaccination.
While he encourages everyone to get vaccinated, Trudeau said he’s uneasy with the idea of a national program to document vaccination status. He said it could marginalize people who, for whatever reason, can or will not get a vaccine.
“The idea of certificates of vaccination for domestic use does bring in questions of equity. There are questions of fairness and justice. There could be discrimination,” Trudeau said in French.
“There are some people who, because of medical conditions or other reasons, will not be able to get vaccinated. There are others who are not on priority lists who will have to wait much longer before getting vaccinations. These are things that we have to take into account. “
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said she shares the prime minister’s “concerns” about requiring Canadians to show proof of vaccination before resuming many aspects of ordinary pre-pandemic life.
She said it ultimately would be up to the provinces to implement such a tracking system in their respective jurisdictions.
Some provinces already require that children be vaccinated against certain diseases before attending school – a model that could serve as a template for a vaccine passport program.
Ontario and New Brunswick require immunization for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps and rubella for all students, while Manitoba requires a measles vaccination.
“Certainly I know provinces and territories are deliberating about those kinds of decisions that are coming their way as more people become vaccinated,” Hajdu said.
Vaccine passports for air travel
Trudeau conceded a vaccine passport program could be implemented for international travel to curb transmission risk.
Before COVID – hit, some countries – including many in Africa – required travelers to provide proof of immunization against diseases like yellow fever before entry.
“There are countries in the world where you should not go unless you can prove you’ve been vaccinated against certain tropical diseases. That’s well established,” Trudeau said.
As for a COVID – vaccination requirement for international travelers, “it’s something that countries are actively exploring and we’re among those countries,” he said in French.
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