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Wednesday,  April 17, 2024 5:33 PM 

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

Vaccine passports for travel are a “very live issue,” says Minister Hajdu
Health Minister Patty Hajdu says the concept of vaccine passports is being discussed around the world. (CBC)
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 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 idea of mandating a “vaccine passport” for future travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic is gaining steam in political circles, Canada's Health Minister Patty Hajdu has suggested.

Proof of immunization against COVID-19 as a means of granting a “green light” to travel abroad is a controversial one, but it’s still being discussed as more countries roll out vaccines and consider easing border restrictions.

Appearing on CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live on Sunday (March 7), Minister Hajdu said the concept of introducing vaccination passports for the purpose of international travel is something G7 countries are actively investigating.

"It's being discussed around the world. I'm a member of the G7 health ministers, we meet every couple weeks. This has been on our agenda," Minister Hajdu told the CBC news program.

Minister Omar Alghabra is also reviewing the idea with international partners, she revealed.

EU proposes digital "green pass"

Some jurisdictions have already announced plans to submit proposals for a digital pass that would contain one’s COVID-19 test results and/or proof of vaccination.

Taking to Twitter on March, Commission Chief for the European Commission (EC) Ursula von der Leyen wrote that the EC will present a legislative proposal for a “Digital Green Pass.”

READ MORE: EU proposing digital “green pass” for travel

The aim of the pass will be to provide proof that a person has been vaccinated, results of tests for those who couldn’t get a vaccine yet, and information on COVID19 recovery, she wrote.

The EC’s legislation is expected to be submitted to European Parliament on March 17.

The European Commission (EC) is proposing rules for a digital pass that will provide proof of both COVID-19 test results and vaccination for the purpose of allowing people to travel.

The term “green pass” is a term modelled off of an initiative used by Israel, which outpaces the world in vaccination rates with more than half of its population now vaccinated.

The country has released an app that allows people to show proof of vaccination, or if they have presumed immunity after contracting COVID-19.

The pass, in turn, allows individuals to move more freely amid the pandemic (by allowing entrance into restaurants and large venues, for example).

But is it effective?

The effectiveness of vaccine passports has been widely disputed.

The World Health Organization (WHO), in February, argued that national authorities should not require such certificates for travel because it's unclear how well vaccines minimize transmission of COVID-19.

“It is WHO’s position that national authorities and conveyance operators should not introduce requirements of proof of COVID-19 vaccination for international travel as a condition for departure or entry, given that there are still critical unknowns regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission,” wrote the WHO on Feb. 5. 

This is something Minister Hajdu also acknowledged on Sunday on CBC. 

Canada leaves the door open

Still, the notion of vaccination passports is still being tossed around in Canadian circles. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in January, said that he disagreed with the concept. However, at a press briefing in early March, the PM appeared to leave the door open to the idea, telling journalists that his government will always rely on Public Health’s advice.

Meanwhile, Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé previously said his province is considering “immunization passports” for residents.

“We are in the digital world, and I don't see why we could not have… what we call the QR code that we have on our boarding pass when we fly,” Dubé said at a press conference on Feb. 25.

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