Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says the province’s PDF vaccine receipts should be proof enough to enter spaces where immunization is required, and doesn’t think an additional certificate is necessary.
She placed responsibility for creating a true vaccine passport for international travel on the federal government, and said the provincial government has no plans to create a card or other item to certify immunization.
“The second dose receipt is confirmation that people have received the two doses and is sufficient proof,” she said during a press conference on Tuesday.
She also said introducing an immunization card or other device would create problems with fraud prevention. She did not clarify why those concerns apply to a card but not the downloadable PDF vaccine receipts.
“We are not mandating vaccines for anyone. Although we strongly encourage everyone to take the vaccine.”
Her comments come after some prominent Ontario business organizations asked the province to implement a local vaccine passport system to take the onus of business owners for verifying staff and customers are immunized.
Ontario Chamber of Commerce vice president Deniel Safayeni is advocating for the government to issue vaccinated individuals a QR code that only displays their name and immunization status.
That would be easier for businesses to quickly scan, and would provide less personal information than the current PDF receipts that include the last four digits of an individual’s health number.
What’s more, a QR code that links to government-controlled information would be more secure than a PDF that can be easily forged.
“You can literally go and edit yourself and make up whatever information you’d like,” he said.
Ontario businesses are looking for leadership from government as the heads into fall when COVID-19 case counts are predicted to increase, Safayeni added.
“What’s currently happening is business are left with burden of creating, implementing, and enforcing their own rules,” he said. “That’s going to result in patchwork of policies that will lead to more workplace outbreaks, more legal disputes, and will ultimately jeopardize progress we’ve made as society.”
Last month, the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table issued a report saying vaccine passports could be useful to regulate certain settings including bars, gyms, sports events, and attendance at college and university campuses.
In addition, the Science Table said passports could incentivize immunization.
“On a short-term basis, vaccine certificates could enable the re-opening of high-risk settings sooner and/or at increased capacity,” the Table wrote. “Vaccine certificates will be of particular importance to maintain economic and societal reopening if public health measures need to be reintroduced.”
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Quebec was Canada’s first province to implement a vaccine passport. The passport system will take effect September 1, and allow fully immunized people to enter to public events where many people will be in attendance.
Manitoba is also launching an immunization card app that can still be used even when someone has no cell signal.
But in Ontario, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore says the province has made good progress by keeping vaccination voluntary. As of Tuesday, 81% of Ontarians 12 and up had at least one dose, and 72% had both doses.
“Ontarians, I think, have realized the benefits of being immunized,” he said on Tuesday afternoon.