Photo By: Lukas from Unsplash

A federally-recognized vaccine passport has been a point of discussion, and controversy, for a while now, and with the election just around the corner the topic has been refuelled. For instance, just the other day protestors showed up to express their distaste for the vaccine passport program right here at Brock. 

But controversy aside, here’s why it’s ultimately a good idea. 

Vaccine passports have drawn interesting divides in the political sphere for a while now. On the fringes, there seems to be a growing impassioned disapproval of any form of vaccine identification on the grounds of violating individual freedom; “freedom” being used here as the impetus for dog whistling to anti-vaxxers and vaccine skeptics. This side of the debate tends to boil down to a perceived, but not actually existent, oppression. 

Getting vaccinated or not is fully your choice, however making the decision not to means you won’t have access to certain things in society that those who choose to get vaccinated will. 

On top of drastically reducing chances of hospitalization if infected by COVID-19, vaccinated folks want peace of mind knowing those around them have also been vaccinated and are helping to work towards herd-immunity, which protects children who cannot be vaccinated and those who are immunocompromised

These vaccine passport programs have mostly been emerging at the provincial level, but this seems incredibly inefficient. Having to complete a variety of screenings for travel, and being uncertain which ones will be valid or not, can and will be exhausting and anxiety-provoking. I’ve had a few friends and family members have to tailor specific routes through Canada when they couldn’t stay overnight in certain provinces due to unique municipal or provincial rules regarding testing. 

In Europe, the European Union (EU), for example, has come together with an “EU Digital COVID Certificate” which took effect on July 1, 2021, and allows vaccine recognition between member states. The certificate uses a QR Code with a digital signature and stores information based on where the issuing body granted it, including whether an individual is coming from a highly affected area and needs to be tested more rigorously before free movement is granted between member states. This is an efficient use of technology that allows for more cooperation and mitigation against the spread of COVID-19, something that could be a good model for Canada, notably in the fight against the more transmissible Delta and Mu variant.

Luckily, the three main parties — Conservatives, Liberals and the New Democratic Party (NDP) — agree that a national system for proving vaccination is needed. The Liberals have encouraged provinces to implement province-wide vaccine passports, pledging to fund $1 billion to provinces that choose to. However, the party has also claimed that a federal passport would take at least a year to enact. So far, only British Columbia and Quebec have gone ahead and issued province-wide proof of vaccination, with Ontario and Nova Scotia being the most recent provinces to confirm province-wide proof of vaccine systems are on their way.

COVID-19 has been successful in creating divisions among us, literally. With the concept of a social contract breaking down left, right, and centre in the wake of the pandemic, coming together on issues like a federally recognized vaccine passports could hopefully begin the process of rebuilding a national sense of community and understanding. 

You can learn more about Ontario’s upcoming vaccine passport program by clicking here.