Monday,  April 12, 2021  2:02 pm

U.S. rules out vaccine passports; Canadians, Americans divided on the idea


U.S. rules out vaccine passports; Canadians, Americans divided on the idea
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

The United States government has decided not to implement federal vaccine passports after Texas reportedly moved to limit their development over privacy concerns.

The White House issued a statement on Tuesday (Apr. 6), saying that “the government is not now, nor will we be, supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential.”

“There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential,” stated White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, adding how the government doesn’t want such certificates “used against people unfairly.”

The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, has announced that fully vaccinated Americans can resume travel activities, safely, within the U.S. without getting tested for COVID-19 or being forced into quarantine.

The travel update, which you can view here, states that fully vaccinated travellers “are less likely to get and spread COVID-19.”

READ MORE: “I’m a fan of vaccine passports if they’re standardized,” says founder of G Adventures

The travel industry, in general, has already begun implementing its own systems that require guests to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, before, for example, boarding a cruise ship or joining a group tour.

Vaccine passport technologies have been developed in many areas already – although inconsistently. 

The “IATA Travel Pass" is currently being tested in select markets. (IATA)

Israel uses what it calls a “green pass” – a health credential app, launched in February, that doubles as an entry permit to facilities for recovered COVID-19 patients or vaccinated individuals.

The European Commission (EC) has adapted a similar idea called the “digital green certificate,” which will soon allow citizens to move safely in the European Union or abroad for work or tourism.

READ MORE: Vaccine passports for travel are a “very live issue,” says Minister Hajdu

The International Air Transport Association's (IATA) has its own approach, too –  the “IATA Travel Pass,” an app currently being tested in select markets.

Even Ontario, at one point, was considering a plan to issue digital “immunity certificates” to people as they received vaccinations. 

The White House has previously said that any efforts to develop an app for easing restrictions should be led by the private and not-for-profit sectors – even as several U.S. states have shunned the idea.   

Canada continues investigating

Canada is still, however, among the countries actively investigating vaccine passports for travel.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has acknowledged the merits of using such certificates, especially since proof of vaccination, as a means of entering some countries, is a concept that has existed for some time now.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (File photo)

As for their use on a domestic level, Trudeau doesn't seem keen on the idea, previously saying that vaccine passports can be discriminatory against people who, for whatever reason, cannot receive a shot.

But Trudeau hasn’t closed the door on the idea entirely, telling media in March that he won't exclude anything. 

Two countries, divided

Canadians and Americans are both divided on the concept, according to a new online Leger poll.

The study, conducted in March for the Association for Canadian Studies and the Canadian Institute for Health Research at the University of Manitoba, found that 52 per cent of Canadian respondents supported showing proof of vaccination, compared with 43 per cent of Americans.

Among the U.S. respondents, 36 per cent opposed the idea, compared with 33 per cent of the Canadians surveyed.

Canada’s Health Minister Patty Hajdu, on Tuesday, said Ottawa remains committed to having conversations with international partners about vaccine passports.

“…because however the conversation evolves, we want to make sure Canadians have the right kinds of documentation for future travel,” Minister Hajdu told reporters. 


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