Provinces divided on making use of COVID-19 vaccine passports. Here’s why

Click to play video: 'Vaccine passports set to launch this fall to help Canadians travel overseas'
Vaccine passports set to launch this fall to help Canadians travel overseas
WATCH ABOVE: Vaccine passports set to launch this fall to help Canadians travel overseas – Aug 11, 2021

After months of deliberation, federal officials announced Wednesday that Canada will be getting a COVID-19 vaccine passport for international travel that is expected to be ready in the fall.

The vaccine certificate will be required across all provinces, and will include the holder’s COVID-19 vaccination history, the date they got it, the type of jab they received and the location where they received their shot. It will be available to all citizens, permanent residents, and temporary residents living in Canada who are fully vaccinated.

Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said the federal government is actively working with provinces and territories on a plan for the passports — but not all provinces appear to be on-board.

There is already growing support among Canadian businesses to impose the country’s first vaccine passport as a tool to prevent future waves of COVID-19 while allowing low-risk individuals to participate in events and move freely.

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Horacio Bach, an infectious diseases expert at the University of British Columbia (UBC), said proof of vaccination comes with an added insurance and is a good idea.

Those who are double vaccinated, probably, if they get the disease it’s not severe,” he told Global News.

“I will feel much better if there is a passport,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Vaccine passports ‘are strongly supported’ in B.C.: health officials'
Vaccine passports ‘are strongly supported’ in B.C.: health officials

Provinces' plans

Global News reached out to every Canadian province and asked whether they would be open to using a vaccine passport within their respective provinces or handing over data necessary to make their domestic use a possibility.

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Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador did not respond by the time of publication.

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Quebec’s health ministry announced Tuesday its plan to launch a COVID-19 vaccine passport system in the province as of Sept. 1.

However, in context of the federal vaccination passport, a spokesperson for the ministry, told Global News in an email that there “is no need for us to use the federal passport, which will rather serve for international recognition,” but they are open to sharing experiences of their provincial passport system with the feds, if need be.

The province is “having discussions with the Federal government in order to share our Quebec experience,” the email said in French.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Health said the province encouraged everyone to get vaccinated, but said officials had no plans to implement a requirement to show proof of vaccination within Saskatchewan.

“We recognize that there are places where this is required, and COVID-19 immunization records are available on MySaskHealthRecord for this purpose,” the ministry said in an emailed statement. “We will continue our work with the federal government on an official federal vaccination certification to support international travel.”

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A provincial spokesperson for Manitoba told Global News it had developed and adopted its own proof of vaccination document — the Manitoba Digital Immunization Card, which was already in use.

“We continue to have regular discussions with Canada about both a domestic proof of vaccination document and a proof of vaccination document for international travel,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“Manitoba has the best interests of Manitobans‘ at the forefront of discussions around domestic and international proof of vaccination documents and will be guided by what is in the best interests of Manitobans as the design and use of proof of vaccination documents evolve.”

Click to play video: 'Pilot project underway in Quebec to test COVID-19 vaccination passport'
Pilot project underway in Quebec to test COVID-19 vaccination passport

Alberta, when asked, said “No,” in an emailed statement to Global News.

The Ontario government reverted to its electronic COVID-19 vaccine receipt, which can be obtained through the Ontario’s provincial portal or by calling the provincial booking line.

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“All provinces have been working with the federal government to create a single vaccine passport for all Canadians,” Alexandra Hilkene, press secretary to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott, said in an emailed statement to Global News.

“Additionally, we’re continuing to encourage the federal government to advocate on behalf of Ontarians who received a NACI approved vaccination series to be recognized as fully vaccinated when travelling abroad.”

Primarily, the Ontario government said it would be up to businesses such as bars and restaurants to decide whether to accept the federal government’s vaccine passport or the province’s e-receipt.

Nova Scotia said they were working with the federal government on the vaccine passport initiative but did not share the progress of their work.

British Columbia was more amenable to the idea.

B.C health officials said vaccine passports would be fully supported throughout the province, adding that they have been working with the federal government on the program.

“We’re a big part of that, we’re working with them, we support them in that and they support us,” B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix told reporters on Wednesday.

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“We’re working to ensure the details of it, of course, the requirement to have information accessible and to have privacy considerations taken into account.”

Click to play video: 'Is it ok to ask for proof of COVID-19 vaccine?'
Is it ok to ask for proof of COVID-19 vaccine?

While experts have been divided on the issue of whether a vaccine passport is necessary, several countries are already using the system.

In Europe, an EU Digital COVID Certificate was launched for all 27 member states on July 1.

The U.K. is also using the NHS COVID Pass on a mobile app to enable its population to show proof of their vaccination status when travelling abroad and domestically at events and venues in England.

Meanwhile, this week France started requiring people to show a QR code proving they have a special coronavirus pass before they can enjoy restaurants and cafes or travel by plane, train or bus across the country.

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— with files from Global News’ Rachel Gilmore and the Associated Press. 

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