As the world is opening back up, many Canadians have been inquiring about required vaccinations for travel, as various countries have implemented different restrictions and guidelines. For this reason, some have considered the possibility of digital vaccine passports, which may be required of Canadians travelling after the pandemic. However, this has been met with controversy due to concerns over many aspects, such as accessibility, data privacy, and enforcement.
More details about the reopening of the Canada-U.S. border will be released in the coming days. In the meantime, Dominic Leblanc, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, states that the federal government has coordinated with provinces and territories about a type of passport that presents proof of vaccination, which is likely to be digital.
The Issues Surrounding COVID Vaccine Passports
Most people would never have considered immigration vaccines to be an issue. While ensuring one gets vaccinated is one matter, it is an entirely different circumstance to prove that one has received their full course of COVID-19 vaccine. In addition to this, there are many barriers to rolling out a digital vaccine passport, especially those who don’t have access to the relevant technology. As a result, they may be barred from travel.
According to immigration lawyer Alex Stojicevic, the main concern lies in assuming that everyone has instant digital access, leaving people like seniors and those with disabilities behind. Not just any smartphone or tablet will do; they’ll need one that meets the requirements of the digital setup. He also warns against a one-size-fits-all policy. "One would imagine there has to be some element of accommodation for people," he says.
Renewed Concerns Over Privacy
Stojicevic also points out the issue of the body in charge of reviewing the proofs of vaccine, saying that people must not be obliged to surrender their phones to the Services Agency. "We’ve had Supreme Court of Canada cases now on what the limitations are on them to search your phone and have access to your password. But now, here, you are giving it to them? What does that mean in terms of ramifications for privacy?" he said.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association also echoes his worries. "We need to make sure that the data, held internationally, is kept secure and private and isn’t used for other purposes and other agencies, other than its intended purpose of international travel," says Executive Director Michael Bryant. He adds that provinces have health data that they aren’t sharing with the Public Health Agency of Canada and that the country has ten policies regarding vaccination priority. According to him, that may result in the need to create an "inferior, information sharing system."
The Barriers of Creating a Proper Digital Passport System
Another obstacle to creating a digital passport system is factoring in the different ways countries administer their vaccines. Some countries have implemented restrictions on the COVID vaccines taken by visitors, recognizing only those approved by the European Medicines Agency. That means visitors inoculated with Sinovac’s CoronaVac or Gamaleya Research Institute’s Sputnik V may be barred from entry, as the regulatory body did not approve these vaccines.
Furthermore, some places within countries have issued proofs of vaccination through a card, while others have sent out digital ones. Due to all these variables, Canada needs to ensure the system adheres to an international standard, accommodating the many different circumstances surrounding an individual’s vaccination.
Digital vaccine passports will cause more Canadians to look into the required vaccinations for travel to ensure a smooth journey in and out of the country. As the government is exploring ways to make the COVID-19 vaccine passport accessible to all Canadians, they highly recommend every Canadian get vaccinated as soon as possible. That way, they won’t have to worry about their health or travel restrictions.
If you’d like to learn more about travel vaccinations in Edmonton, be sure to let us know at Heritage IDA Pharmacy! We are a local pharmacy that is now administering COVID-19 vaccines. We are also committed to providing the latest advice and healthcare knowledge while offering the best possible pharmacy care. Contact us today to book your vaccination appointment!