Vaccine Passports: A Solution to End This Pandemic?

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While every Canadian can agree that we need to open up our country and our borders in order to return to some sense of normalcy, not every Canadian agrees with the concept of a vaccine passport.

This pandemic has been destructive on so many levels.  While every Canadian can agree that we need to open up our country and our borders in order to return to some sense of normalcy, not every Canadian agrees with the concept of a vaccine passport.

With the emergence of vaccines, there is an emerging sense that this will be the beginning of the end of the pandemic.   Sadly, it will not.   While the majority of Canadians have indicated they will receive the vaccine, there will be many Canadians who will not get vaccinated for one reason or another. 

Every level of government around the world is considering the concept of a vaccine passport. Canada has recently reversed its position on the issue.  Initially a hard no, Prime Minister Trudeau seems to be warming up to the idea.  

Vaccine Passports – Good Idea in Theory

A vaccine passport on its very face does seem logical.  However, it is too complicated an issue with multiple layers of complexities.    It seems unlikely that Canada would sign on to any global vaccination passport model or unilaterally develop its own while the matter is still very much in the conceptual stage.  Further, this is a highly charged issue eliciting strong opinions on both sides.  Canada has no desire to step into such a controversy while knee deep in its own problems related to its handling of the pandemic.  

With eyes wide open, the Trudeau government is far too consumed dealing with the fierce criticisms of Canada’s vaccine roll out.  The situation is deteriorating quickly to the point where Trudeau is reeling from global coverage depicting how Canada has fallen woefully behind most developed countries with respect to its ability to vaccinate Canadians. 

Canada’s focus remains on getting COVID-19 under control

Canada knows it would be better served to focus its effort on the domestic production of medicines and vaccines, developing rapid testing innovations, and modernizing advancements in contact tracing and isolation mechanisms.   Canada is quietly seeking to ramp up its ability to vaccinate Canadians and can’t afford to lose sight of this.

Vaccine Passports may still be inevitable

Having said that, it remains inevitable that vaccine passports in some form or fashion will become a realty, especially for international travel.   Quietly in the background Canada is and should be studying its viability.  

But there are legal, ethical, and logistical considerations that need to be closely examined in order to determine if Canadians would support it.  Canada should not jump into any global initiative on vaccine passports without first considering the interests and values of Canadians.  The last thing Canada wants to do it get this wrong.  We simply can’t create more barriers for Canadians who won’t take the vaccine, for whatever reason. 

This must be factored into the analysis when studying if a vaccine passport model would be acceptable to Canadians.  Canada’s position has evolved on this.  However, any implementation of a vaccine passport for international travelers would need to have a science-based justification according to Canada’s long-standing commitment since the onset of covid19.   Canada is signaling its desire to obtain and analyze more data on the issue of vaccine passports, and this is the proper approach.    

The US shows no desire to implement Vaccine Passports yet

The US has shown no desire to implement a vaccine passport requirement for Americans and certainly no appetite to stir a highly partisan, highly charged political landscape with this polarizing topic.    Any ability to implement such a system in Canada for international travel would likely have to be done in close bi-national coordination with the US, and it would be difficult to see Canada taking any unilateral action on our border with the US if there was no agreement for reciprocal action from our American counterparts.  This complicates and already complicated issue.  All signs point to Canada following the US lead on this issue. 

Canada has no real motivation, nor does it perceive any advantage of getting out in front of this issue and leading the vaccine passport initiative.  They seem very content to sit back and watch how this plays out.  In addition to watching what other governments do, Canada will also look closely at where the private sector is trending on this issue.  This seems like a rational strategy to avoid a widely polarizing issue that a very slim majority of Canadians’ support.  Both opponents and proponents are passionate on both sides, and both have very sound arguments for their support and opposition.

From a purely immigration perspective, we need to ensure the free flow of goods and services across our borders as it serves our national interests.   We need to open up our country.   This pandemic has taken a significant toll on Canadians and Canadian businesses.    If Canadian ultimately accepts a vaccine passport model it must be created in such a way to ensure the proper safeguards are in place.  If legal rights are protected and ew adopt and ethical and balanced approach, a vaccine passport can be a part of the solution, but not the solution itself.  This must be made clear.  You cannot mandate a vaccine passport that seeks to create different classes of Canadians, fractures our society, deepens the divides, and discriminate against Canadians who will not receive a vaccine.   You can however use it as another tool in the toolbox in our fight against Covid19 and our determination to re-open our country and reclaim a sense of normalcy. 

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