Vaccine certificates ‘not an easy thing’ to issue according to Hamilton emergency operations boss

Hamilton's EOC director, Paul Johnson, mayor Fred Eisenberger and Dr. Elizabeth Richardson during a March 2020 press conference on COVID-19. Don Mitchell / Global News

Hamilton’s outgoing emergency operations centre (EOC) director says the logistics of a proposed vaccine certificate by the province’s science table would “not be an easy thing” to facilitate at a municipal level.

Paul Johnson, who’s set to become the deputy city manager of community and social services for Toronto, told Global News the legal elements of the medical experts recent proof-of-vaccination idea for Ontario would be difficult to manage in ways too numerous to mention.

“I think people feel that a vaccine passport would pretty easy. Just create an app, download this, and away you go. It’s not that simple,” Johnson said.

“The goal is to wait and see how well we can do in vaccinations overall and maybe we don’t need it because our rates get to where they need to go.”

Read more: ‘Vaccine certificates’ may speed up reopening, incentivize vaccination: Ontario science table

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The EOC boss agrees there needs to be a conversation about a different approach to encourage more vaccine uptake since there appears to be a levelling off in doses administered municipally and provincially in recent weeks.

A science table brief released on Wednesday suggested that proof-of-vaccination certificates could ease a transition into greater venue capacities and help plan for future waves of the virus.

The experts say the measure would help create an infrastructure to guide the reintroduction of public health measures should cases spike in the future.

Dr. Peter Juni, epidemiologist and scientific director of the province’s science advisory table, told Global News that the idea of a vaccine certificate was “motivated” by the continuing rise of the Delta variant — a more transmissible version of COVID-19 — that is not yet under control.

“So we need to be smart and find new ways to deal with this,’ said Juni.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 vaccine certificates could speed up reopening: Ontario science table' COVID-19 vaccine certificates could speed up reopening: Ontario science table
COVID-19 vaccine certificates could speed up reopening: Ontario science table

“Once we start to see upticks, we don’t want to close down businesses again or impose restrictions. So the question is, is there anything in our back pocket that we could use if things get bad again?”

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The science table report says the difference between the certificate and concept of a vaccine passport is attesting someone has completed a vaccination series and not a document to allow travel to other jurisdictions.

Use of a certificate could effectively regulate entry into high-risk settings for transmission, like indoor dining, bars, gyms and events, according to the science table’s brief.

Schools, universities, congregate settings and workplaces also could benefit from such a system since a number of Ontario post-secondary institutions have already implemented some policies around student residences.

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The province currently provides just vaccine receipts, electronically and on paper.

Premier Doug Ford has already said he won’t introduce a proof-of-vaccination system, telling reporters weeks ago that he didn’t want to “have a split society.”

Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, infectious diseases physician with Trillium Health Partners, says he sees the benefit of using the system temporarily during a time when a community is burdened with high COVID case numbers.

Read more: Hamilton’s emergency operations centre director takes new job with city of Toronto

“It’s something that could have some effect to help us avoid lockdown in the high burden times of infection,” Chakrabarti told Global News.

Although Johnson says there is some concern around vaccination coverage in some settings, like long-term care homes where some staff are not required to be fully vaccinated to work, he believes getting the right information to vaccine candidates is best going forward.

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“The rates of vaccination coverage among staff in long term care, for instance, is really high. So you can see that when people get good information and they understand the risk and the role that they play, that they do take the vaccination,” said Johnson.

“But it’s still not 100 per cent. And obviously our goal would be to be as close to that.”

Hamilton surpasses 700,000 mark in COVID-19 doses administered

As of Wednesday, more than 700,857 doses of vaccines have been administered in Hamilton with 76 per cent of the population 18 and over having had at least a single dose, while about 61.5 per cent have been fully vaccinated.

Just over 75 per cent aged 12-plus have had one shot with 59.8 per cent having been fully vaccinated.

Read more: Hamilton ‘winding-down’ large scale COVID-19 vaccination clinics with closures in August

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Over 64 per cent of people under 30 in Hamilton have had at least one shot of a vaccine, while close to 42 per cent have had a second dose as of July 20.

About 64 per cent of youth 12 to 17 have had at least one shot of a COVID-vaccine, according to public health data.

As of Monday, more than 18.4 million total COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Ontario.

About eight million second doses have been administered in the province, which is more than 64 per cent of the adult (18-plus) population. First dose adult coverage stands at 80 per cent.

Read more: McMaster students living in residences will require vaccinations this fall

As of 8 p.m. on Wednesday, more than 18.6 million total COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Ontario. That marked an increase of 125,166 vaccines (17,928 for a first shot and 107,238 for a second shot) in the last day.

There are more than 7.9 million people fully immunized with two doses which is 65.5 per cent of the adult (18+) population. First dose adult coverage stands at 80.4 per cent.

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