Vaccine passports may become a reality as G7 countries commit to collaborate

Mohanad Moetaz
Published: March 31, 2021

Canada’s health minister, Patty Hajdu, met with the health ministers of the other G7 countries – the U.S., the U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Japan – on Monday to discuss the possibility of introducing vaccine passports.

“The G7 partners agreed that there needs to be some consistency and some collaboration among the countries, so we have some kind of system that would be recognizable, no matter where a person was travelling,” Hajdu said, according to iPolitics.

The health minister is concerned that there is a lack of evidence to suggest whether vaccinated people can spread the virus to others.

The Canadian government is aware that other international authorities are exploring giving vaccinated individuals certain privileges. However, Canada would only consider this if it is based on reliable scientific evidence, the Public Health Agency Canada (PHAC) told CIC News in an e-mail.

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“Scientific evidence is clear that the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada are highly effective at preventing illness,” the e-mail said, “However, it is unknown whether vaccinated individuals can still be asymptomatic and spread the virus, thus can still pose a public health risk.”

PHAC also highlighted that vaccination efforts are led by each province and territory’s immunization programs. Therefore, a decision to issue a vaccination certificate or passport will have to be led by Canada’s provinces and territories "in light of their record-keeping and workforce capacity.”

What other countries are doing

Earlier this month, the European Union (EU) proposed creating a “Digital Green Certificate” to make it easier for European citizens to move freely within the union during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This certificate would prove that the holder has been vaccinated against the virus, has received a negative test result, or has recovered from the virus. It would be available at no cost, and it would be valid in all EU member states. The EU will also be working with the World Health Organization to make sure that the certificate can be accepted outside of Europe.

Israel has already introduced a vaccine passport system. More than half of the Israeli population has received the two required doses of the vaccine. Anyone who is vaccinated or has recovered from the virus can use the “Green Pass” to access gyms and hotels. They may also be able to travel to Greece and Cyprus.

In the U.S., the Biden administration is also working on vaccine passports to allow Americans to prove they have been vaccinated.

Travelling to Canada

Currently, Canada does not accept vaccine passports. International travellers are required to present a COVID-19 test, administered before travelling to Canada. They will also be required to take a test upon arrival in Canada.

While they wait for the test results, those travelling by air are required to quarantine at a government-approved hotel for three nights, at their expense.

After the three nights are over, travellers are expected to travel to their final destination to continue their mandatory 14-day quarantine. Towards the end of their quarantine period, travellers will have to take one last COVID-19 test.

Health agency: Let's focus on what works for now

PHAC has re-iterated that the agency is focusing on public health measures that work, such as washing hands, wearing a mask and maintaining physical distancing. PHAC urges Canadians to continue to practice these public health measures to curb the spread of the virus, even if they are vaccinated.

In the meantime, scientists will continue working to understand COVID-19 immunity.

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