Province needs to develop a COVID-19 vaccination passport, Tory urges
Published Wednesday, July 14, 2021 7:56AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 14, 2021 12:23PM EDT
The province needs to develop a basic, opt-in COVID-19 vaccine passport as proof of vaccination is increasingly required for foreign travel and other activities, Toronto Mayor John Tory said Wednesday.
Asked if the City of Toronto would develop its own portable proof of COVID-19 vaccination, the mayor told CP24 the province of Ontario is best suited to develop one as it manages all data related to vaccines administered.
“The bottom line is that if there are people including government who are going to ask you to show that you’ve been vaccinated or not as just a practical means, then the same government, the provincial government in this case, has to provide something to people to be able to show they’ve been vaccinated,” Tory told CP24 on Wednesday.
“Who else is going to provide the proof of vaccination? The province has all of the records in their system of exactly who got vaccinated, where and when and how many times.”
Yesterday, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore said a vaccine passport was not necessary “at this time,” nor is it being contemplated by the Ford government.
Provincial officials also suggested a vaccine passport was a federal responsibility.
“The province has no mandate where you would need proof of vaccination to do things,” Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said on Wednesday. “We are encouraging people to get vaccinated, but there's no parameter where you would need proof to do anything. Those are decisions individual businesses are making, not provincial initiatives.”
As of now, COVID-19 vaccine recipients receive a PDF-format single page document from the COVAX system via email for each shot they receive, detailing the time, date, brand of vaccine they received and even which arm it went into.
These documents are all that can be used to prove vaccination to governments during travel and the small but growing number of other institutions inquiring about vaccination status.
Seneca College says it will require vaccination for all staff and students who return to campus in the fall, and even a Toronto strip club has said it will ask for vaccination status at the door.
The Toronto Region Board of Trade also called for a new vaccine verification system, saying it was necessary to restart activities that involve large indoor gatherings such as conferences.
Apart for privacy concerns, critics have pointed out that COVID-19 vaccination is voluntary, and requirements to screen for vaccination status could exclude people from basic activities.
Tory said debates about the privacy implications of such a system are hampering any discussion about what such a system would look like.
” Everyone is running around sort of saying ‘no, no we’re not going to have this,’ and having some sort of philosophical debate where it’s very practical, people are going to need in some case, even if it’s just to get back into the country without quarantining, proof that they have been vaccinated and only the province can provide that proof.”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said leaving businesses and institutions in Ontario to make up their own vaccine admissions policies was the wrong answer.
"We hear from the government that they have no intention of providing any type of guidance in this regard, while at the same time the (Toronto) Board of Trade says they are talking to the Premier’s Office about this very issue. People deserve to have some clarity as to what the government is doing," she said in Hamilton on Wednesday.
"Leaving it up to everyone to do whatever they want to do seems like a bit of an abdication of responsibility."
Canadian Civil Liberties Association Executive Director and former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant said that governments will be loathe to build vaccine passport systems because of the cost and bureaucracy they bring.
“Governments are very reluctant to get into this business because the bureaucracy and the cost and the laws and the implementation of putting together a vaccine passport system is enormous,” he told CP24.
“Let’s say they spend six months and hundreds of millions of dollars in putting together a vaccine passport, at which point herd immunity is reached and governments say ‘why did we even need this thing in the first place’.”
The Quebec government has announced it will develop a COVID-19 vaccine passport, as has France, the United Kingdom and Russia.
Several U.S. states including New York have also developed their own vaccination pass system.