Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table suggests “vaccine certificates” could speed up reopening in the province and may incentivize more people to get vaccinated.
The table, which advises the provincial government on its response to COVID-19, published a brief regarding vaccine certificates on Wednesday.
“COVID-19 vaccine certificates may have a practical short-term utility for supporting and maintaining economic and societal reopening,” a summary of the brief said.
“In the longer-term, vaccine certificates may be useful as verifiable, secure, standardized, and accessible electronic or paper records of immunization.”
The report said the certificates could be used to allow people to enter places that pose a “high risk” for COVID-19 transmission, like indoor dining, bars, and gyms and could allow for the reopening of “high-risk settings sooner and/or at increased capacity.”
“Some jurisdictions are also implementing vaccine certificates with the goal of incentivizing COVID-19 vaccination,” the report noted, but added that there is no direct evidence regarding the impact of the documents on vaccine coverage.
The advisory table said the documents may also be useful if the province faces further waves of COVID-19 due to variants and health measures have to be reintroduced.
“Governments and health authorities have a role in ensuring that necessary regulations are in place to ensure that vaccine certificates are created and used in a way that safeguards human rights, enables individual accommodations when warranted (e.g., legitimate medical exemptions), and protect against misuse,” the brief continued.
“There are concerns that in the absence of government regulation or direction, organizations and sectors will create their own systems.”
Governments must also work to determine in which settings vaccine certificates would be prohibited, like in essential services and healthcare, the report said.
Certificates should only be used where and for as long as needed to prevent COVID-19 transmission and incursion on one’s privacy must be minimized, the advisory table said.
While there is currently “no direct scientific evidence” regarding the impact of vaccine certificates on virus spread, they could “theoretically” reduce the risk of transmission given the effectiveness of the vaccines.
Premier Doug Ford has previously ruled out the implementation of a “vaccine passport” system in Ontario. (The science table differentiates between passports, which it says are used for international travel, and certificates, which could be used for domestic purposes.)
Last week, the premier said “we aren’t going to have a split society” when asked about the idea.
“I’m not in favour of a mandatory certification,” Ford said.
“I’m just not and neither, by the way, is the chief medical officer and I’ve always said from day one I listen to my chief medical officer. He’s saying there’s no reason for it, another doc on the vaccine table said he wasn’t in favour of it and I’m not in favour of it either. Folks just please, go get vaccinated that’s all I can ask.”
His government has also pointed to the receipt one receives after getting a COVID-19 shot as proof they were immunized.
More than 80.3 per cent of Ontarians aged 18-plus have so far received at least one dose, while nearly 65 per cent are fully immunized.