Ontario’s top public health official says that a vaccine passport that individuals would have to produce in order to participate in non-essential activities is not necessary at this point and “has not been contemplated” by the Ford government.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore made the comment during a briefing on Tuesday afternoon in the wake of Toronto Region Board of Trade CEO Jan De Silva telling CP24 that her organization was “actively at the table” with the Ford government pushing for them to adopt some sort of vaccine passport requirement.

“A passport for within Ontario has not been contemplated by this government,” Moore said. “The vision of this government has been to have the highest immunization rate possible through non-mandatory means to protect the population and communities and businesses and that is going very, very well. To have achieved a rate of immunization already of 79 per cent of 18 plus with one dose and 57 per cent having their second doses is remarkable without any mandate and without any passport, so I don't think it's necessary at this point given that Ontarians are coming forward and getting immunized at such a great rate.”

Quebec has already said that it will use vaccine passports to limit access to moderate or high-risk activities like bars, gyms and contact sports once all residents have had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated.

A number of other jurisdictions globally have also rolled out similar plans, including France.

Ontario officials, however, have largely dismissed the notion so far and have suggested that it is essentially a federal issue.

“I agree it is a personal choice but it also a personal choice for business to say that I want to accept people into my business that are vaccinated so that my workers can feel safe and so that my business can stay open,” De Silva said during an interview with CP24 on Tuesday afternoon. “Our small businesses have taken on an enormous amount of debt just to hang on over the last 15 months. We really need to provide every tool we possibly can to help them reopen and stay open this time.”

Seneca plans to require vaccination for on-campus learning

While Ontario has no current plans to implement vaccine passports, it is expected that some organizations may set their own policies requiring vaccination.

For example, on Tuesday Seneca College confirmed that it will require all students and employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before they attend campus for “in-person teaching, learning and working” this fall.

It is the first Ontario post-secondary institution to make vaccination a condition of participating in in-person learning, though a number of other universities and colleges have previously announced plans to require students living in residence to get vaccinated, including Ryerson University and the University of Toronto.

“Part of this is weighing the risk of doing it and not doing it and I have to say whichever lane you pick it's not going to be necessarily easy because of course if you're not requiring vaccinations to come on campus you're going to have people who will not come back to teach or to work or certainly to learn because they will be too nervous for the appropriate reasons,” Seneca College President David Agnew told CP24 earlier in the day. “Look the pandemic is not over. The variants have not stopped mutating and we have seen in other countries with even higher vaccine vaccination rates outbreaks, we’ve seen the unvaccinated coming into vaccinated circumstances and spread the disease. So this just seemed to be the right thing to do to protect the health and safety of our community.”

Agnew said that about two-thirds of Seneca’s students are not required to come on campus for “any part of their program,” meaning that the requirement may not affect a significant portion of the student body.

The idea of requiring vaccination, however, may not just be limited to Seneca College.

“I would say I am supportive of policies that will increase people being protected,” Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said during Tuesday’s briefing when asked about Seneca’s policy. “Immunization is the most important measure people can take to protect themselves and others from infection and we are coming into the fall when people are going to be congregating so we need to do whatever we can to improve their protection.”