Opinion | Canada’s troubles with federalism are hindering progress on vaccine passport – StCatharinesStandard.ca

Posted: July 23, 2021 at 4:22 am

All over the world, cases are rising again. Ironically, we see a scene repeated far too often hospitalization rises, governments implement lockdowns, then reopen too quickly in the name of saving the economy. Soon enough, we are back at it again, and the blame game starts.

But thanks to an increase in vaccination, at least in Canada, we have a clear solution to prevent us from falling into the same rabbit hole for the fourth time through using a digital vaccine passport.

Implementing a unified approach to verifying vaccination credentials across all jurisdictions in Canada will not only reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19 infections in our communities but will also ensure our brick-and-mortar businesses can stay open even during the worst outbreaks. It will also provide confidence to consumers to safely resume their pre-pandemic shopping activities with reduced fear of exposure or another lockdown, speeding up our economic recovery.

But instead, the lack of collaboration and coordination across provinces and territories on the subject is jeopardizing our hard-earned public health progress.

For instance, Manitoba is handing out immunization cards for access to non-essential services. Quebec also promised to adopt a similar vaccine passport system in the fall if case counts worsen. In the meanwhile, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario have downright rejected the idea.

This discrepancy across our various jurisdictions is problematic as most provinces embark on a new round of reopening, at a greater and wider scale than we have yet seen, as part of a return to normal. Some governments are gambling on the assumption that administering vaccines into arms alone will end the pandemic and believe the country will never again be plunged into another lockdown.

But what they are forgetting is that anywhere from 40 per cent to 50 per cent of each province or territorys respective population has not yet received a second dose to achieve full protection. This is not to mention Alberta and Saskatchewan are already lagging far behind the nation on the first-dose uptake, while Quebec is having clear trouble increasing the second-dose uptake due to vaccine hesitancy and individual complacency.

Governments also forget that viruses dont have borders and wont stop transmitting, especially to those vulnerable or unvaccinated, until appropriate measures are implemented to contain them, even under a vaccinated environment. A vaccine passport is the best bet to get the job done in a domestic setting, especially as variants are fast spreading among unvaccinated across the country.

This is not a time to be worried about a split in our society. Special times require special measures, or else we are at risk of backtracking from our current progress.

We need to prevent a pandemic of the unvaccinated, already warned by multiple top public health officials. We also cannot afford another lockdown at the same scale we have seen before the damage from last year and a half has been too great. Our health and economic survival lie in the hands of sound policy-making from our political and public health leaders at this very moment.

On Friday, we heard that Los Angeles County is bringing back mask orders due to the surging Delta variant overwhelming local hospitals. In the UK, cases are surging with rising hospitalizations, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson is now quarantining following contact with his new Health Secretary, who tested positive on Saturday. Its a narrative weve all became too familiar with, and warning signs are printed all over.

We saw devastating results when provinces and territories failed to implement a co-ordinated approach to public health restrictions across the country for the past year and a half. One wave became three. Lockdowns in some areas lasted for over a year, which became the longest in North America.

It should not be the direction we are heading again with the vaccine passport. Instead, we need to tackle the challenge of managing coronavirus together as a federation before too late. After all, which province will pay for the economic damage of a fourth wave?

Susan Cui is a public affairs and communications professional based in Toronto.

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Opinion | Canada's troubles with federalism are hindering progress on vaccine passport - StCatharinesStandard.ca

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