Ontario’s vaccine passport: ‘I think it’s the right time to do it,’ experts say as Premier Doug Ford gets set to unveil plan

·3-min read

Ontario Premier Doug Ford is set to announce a proof of vaccination system that is expected to be introduced in the province later this month.

The premier will be joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Heath Christine Elliott, Associate Minister of Digital Government Kaleed Rasheed and Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario's chief medical officer of health for the announcement.

In advance of the announcement on Wednesday afternoon, infectious disease experts told Yahoo Canada that at this point in the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario, they support the introduction of a proof of vaccination system in the province.

"It can be a temporary thing as we will take some time to emerge out of this pandemic, so this may not be the new reality forever but while we're still in a position that things have not been controlled worldwide and this pandemic is still active, I think it makes a lot of sense," Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control, and infectious diseases specialist at University Health Network in Toronto told Yahoo Canada last week.

'I think it's the right time to do it'

Dr. Hota explained that a proof of vaccination system, requiring people who show some sort of vaccine certificate or vaccine passport to access certain services, can better allow business to remain open as the pandemic continues, in addition to giving people more security in terms of doing their own personal risk assessment on how many personal contact people want, or need, to have.

"Even if you're following what the government's saying is allowable at this stage of the pandemic, you still want to protect yourself and think critically through what you're doing," Dr. Hota explained. "It helps you with that decision."

She added that it can also be a good incentive to "boost up" the number of people coming forward to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Here is a very direct and tangible thing that is going to affect your ability to live the life that you want to live through the rest of the pandemic and I do think some people will come forward, and they will come forward quicker.Dr. Susy Hota, Infectious Disease Specialist

"It's still their choice and they're still providing consent to get vaccinated, so I don't see it as a forceful maneuver, but I think it just helps people with the choice about how important this is for them... I think it's the right time to do it."

Vaccine passport is not to divide 'vaccinated people from unvaccinated people'

Ontario infectious diseases specialist Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti told Yahoo Canada that a proof of vaccination program has a specific use, but that use may not be what the "public perception" of it is.

"The time it is best used is when there is significant ongoing community transmission [at] an elevated level, which is leading to a noticeable amount of hospitalizations," Dr. Chakrabarti said. "What I mean by that is in the summertime, we've had [COVID hospitalizations]...but as you start to get more and more of these happening, then this could potentially lead to trouble."

"Historically what we've done is lock down. But with the COVID passport, what it can do is there can still be transmission but because it's happening between either people who are vaccinated, or people who are rapid test negative, which means they're not contagious at that point in time,...it puts together the lowest risk people for for transmission and hospitalization."

Dr. Chakrabarti stressed that the implementation of a vaccine certificate or vaccine passport "is not to protect vaccinated people from unvaccinated people."

"It's actually to try to protect unvaccinated people from each other because they're the highest risk of, number one, transmission, and the highest risk of needing hospitalization, and that could be something that temporarily helps," he said 

"I do think though that when the community transmission drops, and we're no longer at risk of a lot of [hospital] admissions and hospital pressure, it should be lifted off, the COVID passport."

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