The idea of a “vaccine passport” — a broad term for official documentation showing a person has been vaccinated — has been floated since the early days of the pandemic.
But there are numerous challenges to consider, ethical, technical and otherwise, said Beatty.
Many are concerned about discrimination against those who can’t or won’t get the COVID-19 vaccine. Poorer countries will be much slower to receive the vaccine, and requiring proof of vaccination from residents of those countries for travel could further widen the gap between those countries and others.
There’s also the issue of security, especially if such “passports” are digital.
Israel was the first to roll out a vaccine passport; England is looking into the possibility; several European countries are considering them, too. In February, Denmark announced it was developing a digital passport.
On March 1, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, tweeted that the proposed “Digital Green Pass” would help European citizens safely move around the European Union or abroad. However, the pass wouldn’t be just for those who are vaccinated; it could also hold proof of a negative COVID-19 test for those who haven’t received the vaccine.
One obvious question is whether “vaccine passports” should be mandatory for certain activities, such as travelling, Beatty said. The answer to that question is not a simple one but needs to be addressed.
After all, not everyone is able or willing to get vaccinated, said Beatty, and there need to be provisions so that we aren’t creating “two standards of citizenship.”
In an emailed statement, Health Canada and Public Health Agency of Canada spokesperson Maryse Durette acknowledged that governments and other international bodies “are exploring the possible use of vaccination certificates as one tool to support the reopening of societies and economies,” but said any similar effort in Canada would require “reliable scientific evidence.”
Mike McNaney, president and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada, said the council is pushing the government for a comprehensive airline strategy that includes vaccine certification as one way to ensure safe travel, alongside rapid testing and quarantining.
McNaney noted that there are numerous platforms that have already been created that could act as a “vaccine passport” — though he hesitates to use the term — and said Canada will need to come up with a set of requirements for validating whichever platforms other countries choose to use, ensuring interoperability.
However, not everyone will be vaccinated, said McNaney, and that’s why rapid testing and quarantining will continue to be key for safe travel once restrictions begin to ease around the world.