Quebec became the first province in Canada this week to introduce a widespread vaccine passport system as part of an effort to avoid re-introduction of COVID-19 lockdown measures this fall.
The passport – an online application used to show proof of vaccination – will go into effect on September 1.
For starters, it will be required in non-essential businesses, including restaurants, bars, gyms, and high-risk public events, such as concerts.
But public health officials have made clear that the applications can be expanded to other places and activities. More details to come later this month.
Civil liberties groups have raised concerns about data security, and opposition parties have called for a debate over the merits of the system.
However, public health experts believe it could help avoid another series of lockdowns and tighter restrictions.
“I think it’s a very good measure to prevent lockdown,” said Dr. Cecile Tremblay, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Montreal.
“With this tool, first of all, it’s good for people who are vaccinated. They can still enjoy everything they were doing before and reduce exposure to the virus for those who haven’t been vaccinated.”
Quebec had initially floated the idea of a more targeted approach to the vaccine passport system, as it would only be used in areas struggling with a high rate of COVID-19.
The increasing presence of the more dangerous delta variant has caused the government to change course and implement it throughout the province.
“Taking into account the increase in cases, the decline that comes with going back to school and back to work, and the expected spread of the delta variant, there are conditions for the publication of the vaccination passport,” Health Minister Christian Duby said. advertisement.
Quebec has already begun testing the plan at a sports bar in Quebec City. A gym in Laval and a cocktail bar in Montreal are due to follow next week.
Other counties have not yet committed to a similar plan, but several prominent institutions and companies — including the Winnipeg Jets, the University of Ottawa and the University of Toronto — have made full vaccination a requirement of their own.
France and Israel are among the countries that have already established similar certification systems.
In Quebec, Prime Minister Francois Legault says the idea has far-reaching support. But he was criticized by the opposition for not bringing the vaccine passport up for debate in the National Assembly, despite their agreement with the idea in principle.
Eric Duhemy, the leader of Quebec’s Conservative Party, launched an anti-passport petition that has garnered more than 100,000 signatures. A passport protest is scheduled for Saturday in Montreal.
Tremblay said it’s too early to have a strong sense of the benefits of such a government-imposed system, but she believes it would be beneficial going forward.
“My understanding is that the government wants to employ this very gradually,” Tremblay said. “It will depend on the epidemiology.”
“Of course, if we see a massive fourth wave, it will be a very useful tool. If we see that there are hardly any cases during the fall, we may decide that we don’t really need it.”
Like many other provinces, Quebec has seen a recent spike in cases as it heads toward a fourth wave of COVID-19.
Trois-Rivieres, northeast of Montreal, has seen outbreaks in restaurants and bars that could have been prevented if the vaccination passport was valid.
Dr. Sameer Gupta, a respiratory specialist and professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, told CBC News that both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals would benefit from the regimen.
He said it would also keep the spread of the virus to a minimum among children under 12, who are not eligible for a vaccine.
“If we can reduce the intensity of the fourth wave, it will be safer for children when they come back,” he said.
Increase vaccination rates
The boycott’s main goal is still to vaccinate more people, and the passport system has helped encourage people to get an injection.
Vaccine reservations jump After Quebec announced last week that the system is coming – just as it did in France earlier this summer.
As it stands, 84 percent of the province’s eligible population received a first dose of the vaccine (slightly more than the Canadian average of 82), and 71 percent received both.
But that still leaves a significant portion of the population without a first dose.
“When you think about it, there are still millions of people in Quebec who haven’t received two doses of the vaccine,” Tremblay said.
“Even if you have 80 percent, 20 percent have not been vaccinated.”
There is also emerging evidence that the delta variant is more likely to lead to so-called superinfection among fully vaccinated people.
When it comes to the vaccination rate, Dr. Don Sheppard, director and founder of the McGill Multidisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunology, said, “The honest truth is that the target we should aim for is 100 percent.”
“There is no doubt that we will see more superhuman infections, but the vaccine is still very likely to prevent people from having to be hospitalized,” he said.