Canada

Ontario science table says vaccine certificates could be used to speed up reopening of high-risk settings

TORONTO —
Vaccine certificates could be useful in reopening higher-risk settings in the province sooner, according to the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.

The table published a 21-page brief Wednesday providing their key considerations on a possible vaccination certification program, concluding that provincial governments “may want to consider development of a common design.”

According to the brief, vaccine certifications could be used in Ontario on a short-term basis to help reopen higher risk settings, such as indoor dining, bars, gyms, cultural and sports events, sooner or at an increased capacity.

On a longer-term basis, the brief says they could serve as a secure and standardized way to show immunization records. Officials pointed to schools and workplaces that require mandatory reporting of immunization status as potential sites where vaccine certificate programs could be useful.

Ontario currently administers paper slips as proof of vaccination upon receiving a vaccine dose. Vaccination statuses can also be viewed and downloaded online.

The brief underlines a need to roll out and conduct a vaccination certification program in an ethical manner, arguing that ”there are important ethical, legal, accessibility and privacy considerations that should guide the design and implementation of COVID-19 vaccine certificates to ensure effects are not disproportionate to the aim.”

Certain spaces, such as essential and low-risk settings, should not require any sort of certification and any potential program must be kept equitable, it adds.

“Government and health authorities will need to take steps to ensure that COVID-19 vaccination, as well as vaccine certification, is accessible to all individuals on equitable terms,” the brief reads.

The table also highlights concerns that the private sector could come forward with its own requirements for patrons and customers without government or health authorities leading the way.

Looking forward, the table writes that introducing a form of vaccine certification could be useful if the province were to face future waves of increased COVID-19 cases.

“Given the anticipated seasonality of [COVID-19], as well as the possibility of additional variants of concern, establishing … [a] COVID-19 vaccine certification may be useful if public health measures need to be reintroduced.” 

A survey of a random sampling of 1,115 adult Canadians found that a majority were in favour of introducing a form of vaccine certification.

Seventy per cent of Ontarians surveyed were in favour of the idea—the highest number of supporters of the provinces sampled.

Last week, Premier Doug Ford came out strongly against the idea of a vaccine passport.

“The answer is no, we’re not gonna do it. We’re not gonna have a split society,” Ford told reporters in response to a question about creating vaccine passports.

The table notes, however, that vaccine certificates differ from passports.

“A vaccine passport provides proof of vaccination status for the purpose of travel across international borders,” reads the brief, whereas a vaccine certificate is “a verifiable attestation by an issuing body, for example, the Province of Ontario, that a person received an approved and complete series of COVID-19 vaccines.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory has called for the implementation of a vaccine certification program in the past.

“The bottom line is that if there are people including [the] government who are going to ask you to show that you’ve been vaccinated or not as just a practical means, then the same government, the provincial government in this case, has to provide something to people to be able to show they’ve been vaccinated,” Tory told CP24 last week.


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