The province’s top public health official says that it might be time “to reassess the value” of Ontario’s so-called vaccine passport system.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore made the comment during a briefing on Thursday, as he discussed data pointing to minimal protection against infection for individuals who only have received two doses of vaccine.
“When we see a vaccine that doesn't provide the sterile immunity like it did provide against Delta, we have to reassess whether we maintain a proof of vaccination certification process, given the decreased benefit against transmission,” Moore said.
Right now, Ontario only requires individuals to have received two doses of vaccine to access a number of non-essential settings covered by vaccine passport requirements, including eating indoors at a bar or restaurant.
But Moore said that with the Omicron variant, two doses of vaccine doesn’t “seem to limit the risk of transmission significantly,” though it does provide greater protection against severe outcomes, including hospitalization and death.
It should be noted that a third dose provides about 60 per cent protection against infection but Premier Doug Ford has previously said that his government has no plans to change its definition of fully vaccinated.
“We just have to be honest about the benefits now of two doses of the vaccine and review the implications for all of our public health measures put in place and I think those discussions will be happening in the coming weeks and months,” Moore said on Thursday.
Both NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca have called on the province to update its vaccine passport system to require that individuals receive three doses, arguing that doing so will help boost the uptake for booster shots.
Speaking with reporters, Moore said that the province is waiting for further guidance on whether the federal government will change their definition of fully vaccinated for the purpose of international travel.
But he also seemed to suggest that scrapping proof of vaccination requirements altogether is a possibility in Ontario, as public health indicators improve.
“We have to decide as a society how many public health measures we want to just recommend and or maintain in a legal fashion to limit the spread of viruses. I think that discussion should happen soon,” he said, noting that mask mandates will probably be the “last one to go.”
The Ford government had previously said that it would start gradually lifting proof of vaccination requirements in January but it abandoned those plans amid the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.