COVID-19: Proof of vaccine requirements in N.S. raises privacy questions

Click to play video: 'Proof-of-vaccine requirements in N.S. raise questions about privacy' Proof-of-vaccine requirements in N.S. raise questions about privacy
If you plan to attend a HFX Wanderers game, you’ll need to show proof of vaccination or take a rapid COVID-19 test to enter the stadium. It’s also a move one Halifax gym is implementing to bring a layer of protection for staff and clients. But as Jesse Thomas reports, the requirement also raises questions about privacy and enforcement. – Aug 25, 2021

If you plan on attending a Halifax Wanderers professional soccer game, you’ll need to show proof of vaccination at the stadium entrance or take a rapid COVID-19 test to ensure a seat.

When the Wanderers take the field at home on September 3rd, all employees and event staff, along with media and fans 12 years and older will be required to show proof of vaccine or take a rapid COVID-19 test to enter the stadium for the remainder of the 2021 soccer season.

Wanderers President and founder Derek Martin says the soccer club has always made it a goal to make the community stronger through sport and the decision to require proof of vaccine is a means to keep the community safe as the pandemic continues to bring risks and challenges.

Read more: Dalhousie University mandating COVID-19 vaccines for students, staff

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“We really just listened to our fans and we listened to our season seat members,” said Martin. “What we were hearing over and over again, is that as excited as they were to get back, they still had some fears and trepidation about being in large crowds and being around folks they weren’t sure if they had taken the same precautions they had.”

Mathew Benvie has been talking with his clients at Evolve Fitness about a proof of vaccine policy which is something he said the majority of members were in favour of implementing.

“We took feedback from our clients and the overwhelming response was, we want you to do this,” said Benvie, saying the vaccine policy will add a layer of protection for staff and members.

Starting Sept. 15, gym-goers at Evolve Fitness at the Halifax and Bedford location will have to show proof of vaccination to enter the gym, this is also the date Nova Scotia has tentatively planned to end phase five of its reopening plan, where all COVID-19 public health regulations and protocol will be lifted.

Benvie says the pandemic has hurt business as they tried to adapt and cooperate with public health restrictions, but as the province moves to lifting all health restrictions and capacity inside businesses like gyms return to 100 per cent, there are still risks with the pandemic and so the vaccine policy is a measure to ensure safety and the health of everyone is respected.

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“We do need to get more people back into gyms because all gyms have been suffering,” said Benvie. “So how do we safely get back to regular business and again keep our community and everyone safe and this has been the result, it really came from our clients.”

Benvie said there has been some backlash from a handful of gym members who have raised issues with the policy but says there’s really no alternative.

“You never want to upset people and that’s the only thing that we’re losing sleep over, is we’ll inevitably lose some clients,” he said. “But you really have to stay true to what your values are.”

The vaccination policy does raise concerns about privacy and enforcement, but from a legal perspective, businesses can limit who enters their premises says privacy lawyer David Fraser.

“Anybody who operates a retail store, a gym, a workplace, get to limit who gets to go in there, and they can apply criteria, as long as it’s not discriminatory,” said Fraser. “Those are the baseline rules.”

When it comes to vaccinations and mandatory vaccine policies, we are still in a global pandemic says Fraser, and businesses and employers still have an obligation to protect and ensure the safety and well-being of their employees.

“A gym is one of those environments where people are breathing heavily and where people are using the same equipment, and so maybe it is an appropriate policy to have with respect to risk,” said Fraser.

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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?
Is it ok to ask for proof of COVID-19 vaccine? – Aug 6, 2021

When you’re collecting information that requires proof of vaccination, it always raises privacy issues, but what’s on the proof of vaccination card or information being requested is what matters in the end.

If it’s simply your name and vaccination status, then that doesn’t pose a major privacy risk, says Fraser. It’s up to the businesses to limit and minimize the information they are collecting.

“I think we’ll see more of it,” said Fraser. “And somebody has to go first and break the seal and after that, it’s likely additional businesses will follow suit.”

Fraser predicts more businesses will come on board with the policy and take on somewhat of a snowball effect, and as it rolls out, you’ll see a strength in numbers approach which leads to the presumption that it’s a reasonable policy.

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Read more: Back to school, back to normal? Comparing COVID-19 school plans in Atlantic Canada

“You also don’t want to be the only gym in town that doesn’t require this, and then have an outbreak,” said Fraser.

The Wanderers will open its gates 90 minutes before kickoff to allow the fans time to show their tickets and proof of vaccine. Martin is hopeful, and believes it is possible the proof of vaccine policy might even encourage others to get vaccinated.

“It’s not up to us to tell people what to do,” said Martin. “But if there are people on the fence about getting vaccinated, and they just haven’t gone about doing it, maybe they’ll be encouraged just to get it done.”

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