Governments around world mull the idea of a vaccine passport

CALGARY — Canadians itching to travel again may need to pack more than a suitcase and sunscreen when airport gates finally get flung open again.

That’s because the federal government – and other G7 countries – are considering the idea of vaccine passports.

The challenge behind the idea may be making sure it’s equitable for all nations.

COVID test results and quarantine in high-priced airport hotels are some of the international travel rules Canadians now face.

Soon, the need for a COVID-19 vaccine passport, proving you’ve been fully vaccinated, may be one more.

 The idea drew mixed reviews from a few Calgarians, Monday.

“I think it will allow people to travel safely,” said Brooklea Graham.

“I think it’s against our (right to) freedom to travel,” said Romelia Germanu.

As more shots go in arms around the world, more nations are considering the notion of a vaccine passport.

Canada’s health minister says that includes countries with the most advanced economies.

 “We’re certainly working on the idea of vaccine passports with our G7 partners,” said federal health minister Patty Hajdu. I was on a call with my G7 health minister counterparts just a couple of weeks ago, and that is a very live issue.”

Health Minister Patty Hajdu

PROOF OF VACCINATION

Proof of vaccination is already required by some countries for diseases such as yellow fever.

The Seychelles became the first to welcome travelers from all over the world with no quarantine or tests required if you show a COVID-19 vaccination certificate.

The International Air Travel Association is working on guidelines that would affect most major airlines.

“I think that’s going to be part of our future,” said travel expert Onanta Forbes. “But hopefully with this vaccination it will alleviate time and money and you can just focus on your vacation.”

There are still a lot of unknowns, however, particularly with regard to how to classify unvaccinated travelers.

 “How do you do that for people against vaccinations of all sorts? Can you just never leave your country again because you’re not vaccinated against COVID?” asked Shirley Wayte.

As details are being determined, experts say they will have to include protocol for people who are not vaccinated, including kids.

 “As, for example, a pediatric vaccine becomes available we might see that reflected in the future,” said infectious disease specialist Craig Jenne, “but there will always have to be an accommodation for people not vaccinated and that may require additional measures at the border such as testing or quarantine.”

Right now, Canada still requires a negative tests from international travelers and is not accepting proof of vaccination, although some welcome the idea.

 “If it means I don’t have to fork over a bunch of money for a COVID-19 test and stay at a government mandated hotel and reduce my quarantine, then I’m all for it,” said Tracy Batiuk.

With a lot of details to work out, a vaccine passport is likely months away in order to make sure there is consistency around the world.

Right now only about 1.5 per cent of Canadians are fully vaccinated, which is actually one of the global ethical concerns, namely that vaccine passports could seriously restrict travel for people in poorer countries that have less access to vaccines for a long time.

Another concern is the uncertainty about whether or not vaccinated people may still be able to transmit coronavirus.

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