Your vote: Are vaccine certificates a good idea, or bad?
The debate is heating up over vaccine certificates. Sometime they are called “vaccine passports,” but they won’t just be used for international travelers – they may be required domestically for work, school, and even shopping.
For some people, vaccine certificates proving you’ve been fully vaccinated is the pathway to a safer future. For others, it has the potential to create a more divided society.
Below is a new article by our friend Christopher Holcroft, where he argues, “Vaccine passports are not only vital to the safety of our community, they are crucial to the stability of our democracy.” Meanwhile Conservative governments that oppose vaccines, such as in Alberta and Ontario, refuse to issue vaccination certificates.
Cast your vote in this month’s Peace Poll:
Vaccine passports can strengthen democracy
By Christopher Holcroft
Wed., July 28, 2021
Vaccine passports are not only vital to the safety of our community, they are crucial to the stability of our democracy. Canadian political leaders should embrace them.
There are strong arguments for now requiring proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to travel, attend post-secondary school, and access non-essential services, at minimum. Scientists have outlined the advantages for reducing the spread of the virus and lessening the likelihood of further lockdowns. Business groups have connected vaccine passports to a robust economic recovery.
There are some legitimate concerns: ensuring equitable access to vaccines, protection of privacy rights, and guarding against potentially discriminatory practices under a vaccine requirement. There is also a significant population — children under 12 years of age — for whom a vaccine is not yet available.
Any COVID-19 vaccine passport must therefore be thoughtfully implemented and justly administered (including exemptions for rare medical situations). Such models already exist. An international Certificate of Vaccination against yellow fever is required to enter some countries. In several provinces — including Ontario, New Brunswick, and British Columbia — students attending public schools must demonstrate proof of immunization against a number of diseases.
Still missing from this discussion, however, is recognition of the extraordinary strain our public discourse and social fabric are under from alt-right media websites, disinformation campaigns, and anti-government think tanks.
Even as Canada emerges as a global leader in vaccine uptake and delivery, these forces threaten to undermine the public effort to overcome a deadly pandemic while deepening mistrust in science and democratic institutions.
Evidence of the alarming spread of pandemic misinformation on social media and the role of bad actors is well documented, and Canada is not immune. Studies conducted over the last year reveal that nearly all Canadians have seen misinformation about COVID-19 online and almost half have believed at least one unfounded theory about the virus.
Worse, ignorance is intersecting with hate. According to a 2020 study, Canada is among the global leaders in online right-wing extremism. A study released this week noted the impact of the pandemic on extremist activity, and the Canadian Anti-Hate Network recently reported such extremism is now targeting vaccine distribution.
We cannot wish this problem away, and with new variants of the virus encroaching, we cannot afford to wait it out.
Canadian public opinion researchers suggest — and France’s new policy confirms — that vaccine passports can be effective in allowing Canada to reach the rate of immunization public health experts say is necessary for herd immunity. The Quebec government is preparing for its use.
Vaccine passports can strengthen our democracy too.
Vaccine passports can be effective in allowing Canada to reach the rate of immunization public health experts say is necessary for herd immunity.
What some have termed the “stick” in addressing vaccine hesitancy should instead be viewed as a bridge to a safer, more just post-pandemic world, one that values reason, fairness, and responsibility.
Taking the most basic of health precautions — subject to a legitimate exception — to protect your fellow citizens is an entirely reasonable expectation of civic responsibility.
Permitting a noisy but small cohort of the misguided and misinformed to abdicate this responsibility — at the risk to the wider community — is not empathy but apathy, and badly underestimates a more sophisticated, darker reality.
There is profit to be made in facilitating the dangerous spread of misinformation and hate, and there is political power to be won in pandering to it. Both of which make opposition to vaccine passports from some provincial premiers particularly distressing.
Action should be taken now. While our federation’s governance structure precludes easy solutions, a projected federal election presents an opportunity to position vaccine passports as a national objective and move the issue forward. Mandating proof of vaccination for international travel, introducing vaccine requirements to access some federally regulated services such as VIA Rail, airlines, ferries, and the post office, and co-ordinating a standardized pass available for use by all provinces and territories would be an excellent step and a solid commitment by party leaders.
This is a moment in which Canada can overcome two significant threats to public well-being. We should seize it.
Christopher Holcroft is a Montreal-based writer and founder of Civil Dialogue. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org