Vaccine passports spark a debate over privacy vs. public health.

Vaccine passports
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As an increasing number of fully vaccinated Canadians emerge from hiding to test the gradual return to pre-pandemic normalcy, a problem looms: what to do about individuals who haven’t had a vaccination for whatever reason? Finding the right balance between public health and personal liberty, and determining whether one must be sacrificed to protect the other, will become increasingly important as the country reopens.

A vaccine passport, a document that the holder can present as proof of immunization against the coronavirus in order to be granted certain freedoms, is the solution for an increasing number of jurisdictions and institutions. Those who are unable to present such evidence because they were unable or unwilling to get vaccinated may be denied entrance to businesses, airlines, and university dorms, to name a few potential inconveniences.

Manitoba stated last month that it would issue immunization cards to fully vaccinated residents, allowing them to travel domestically without having to self-isolate when they return. Western University in London stated in May that students living on campus would be required to produce proof of immunization.

In May, Health Minister Patty Hajdu told that her government was discussing a vaccine passport with G7 allies to allow immunized Canadians to resume international travel, while Quebec began issuing downloadable QR codes as digital proof of vaccination, though it wasn’t clear how they’d be used.

Ethicists, privacy advocates, and civil rights groups have warned that such mandates risk creating a new two-tier society that benefits those who have been vaccinated while marginalizing those who have not. According to the most recent federal government data, three-quarters of Canadians aged 12 and up have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 22% were fully vaccinated as of June 25.