Commonly called vaccine passports, immunization records or documents indicating vaccination status will be important as certain parts of the world begin to reopen. Many Canadians see vaccine passports or vaccine certificates as a necessary step to re-enter public spaces and events; others are concerned that the need to disclose vaccine information may affect their rights. In a working paper published by the C.D. Howe Institute, CITF-funded researcher Dr. Kumanan Wilson and colleagues from the University of Ottawa evaluate potential legal hurdles regarding the disclosure of information on vaccine status in Canada, including within the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and privacy rights. They also discuss various challenges regarding the implementation of some type of vaccine certificate.

Key Points:

  • A comprehensive vaccine passport program, partnered with inclusive and equitable vaccine distribution, will likely be upheld by the Canadian judicial system.
  • Privacy issues raised by disclosing information on vaccine status can be mitigated by thoughtful design and government regulation.
  • Restricting the use of vaccine passports for non-essential services instead of wider use will diminish the impact on those individuals who choose to not disclose vaccine status information.
  • Accommodations for the unvaccinated should be made in the form of regular testing.

The authors explore issues such as the equity and discrimination of individuals who cannot be vaccinated for health or religious reasons and provide potential solutions for this group. In Canada, concerns surrounding the inequitable uptake of vaccines remain because this inequity will be further emphasized by a vaccine passport system. The authors explain that this can be avoided by engaging with marginalized groups and regions to ensure vaccine access because the “defensibility of a vaccine passport regime will depend on access and affordability.”

The authors also outline that the implementation of vaccine passports can be coordinated at the federal level, with provinces responsible for data linkages and surveillance. Coordination with national players such as the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) will also be necessary to develop and adhere to national guidelines. The authors also advocate for provinces to issue standardized immunization records for COVID-19 vaccines that are securely linked to an individual’s identity. In summary, Dr. Wilson and colleagues conclude in this working paper that a “well-designed vaccine passport regime, backed by an equitable vaccine distribution scheme, will likely withstand a Charter challenge.”

Read the full report here.