No plans for ‘divisive’ vaccine passports for Canadians, Trudeau says

© THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam as she speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Tuesday, November 10, 2020.

Global News/As shots of the novel coronavirus vaccine continue to roll out across Canada and other parts of the world, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government has no plans to implement vaccine passports — proof that a person has been vaccinated against the virus — on a federal level for Canadians.

According to Trudeau, standardizing such a measure could have “real divisive impacts” for Canada and its communities.

“I think it’s an interesting idea but I think it is also fraught with challenges — we are certainly encouraging and motivating people to get vaccinated as quickly as possible but we always know there are people who won’t get vaccinated and not necessarily through a personal or political choice,” Trudeau said during an interview at the Reuters Next Conference.

Read more: Proof of vaccination wades into ‘murky territory’ ethically, experts say

“There are medical reasons, there are a broad range of reasons why someone might not get vaccinated and I’m worried about creating knock-on, undesirable effects in our community.”

The prime minister also added that enough Canadians being eager to get vaccinated would “get us to a good place” without having to take more severe measures like implementing such a passport.

Video: Coronavirus: Concerns raised in Ontario about concept of ‘immunity passport’

The idea of a vaccine or immunization passport is one that’s already been touted widely by businesses and countries across the world, with Microsoft, Salesforce and Oracle among several big names to announce work on a project to verify whether or not a person has had their shot.

Israel, which has been among the fastest to vaccinate its citizens against the virus, also recently unveiled a similar “green passport” which would allow vaccinated persons to eat in restaurants, attend public events and travel freely.

Denmark announced last week that it was working on developing a digital “vaccine passport” for those who have received their shot, while a proposal for a vaccine pass allowing free travel across the European Union was pushed by the Greek prime minister Thursday.

Read more: No coronavirus vaccine, no entry? Experts say it’s possible in pandemic’s next stage

Though plans to implement the measure on a federal level were shut down by Trudeau, several provinces have not yet ruled out the possibility of issuing such a pass, with Ontario’s health minister announcing a plan to issue certificates that could allow vaccinated Canadians in the province to travel, work and be in close contact spaces.

But implementing the passport could pose several challenges on both a logistical and ethical level, according to several experts.

Alison Thompson, a professor with the University of Toronto’s Joint Centre for Bioethics said that giving someone a piece of paper saying that they’ve been immunized is “a lot different from making it a prerequisite for attending a concert or riding the transport system.”

“A card or certificate is not going to be a great way of determining someone’s immune status,” she said in a previous interview with Global News. “It would provide a false sense of security.”

Read more: Coronavirus ‘Travel Pass’ concept picks up steam with airline industry

Creating such a pass would also create “two tiers of people,” according to Kerry Bowman, a professor of bioethics and global health at the University of Toronto.

“When you get different people doing different things, it creates questions of justice,” said Bowman in a previous interview with Global News.

As of Jan. 7, Canada has distributed 548,950 doses of Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines across the country’s provinces and territories, according to federal data.

To date, at least 687,387 people have also been diagnosed with the virus, while at least 17,500 people have died.

— With files from Reuters and from Global News’ Rachael D’Amore.