Vaccine Passports have been all the rage recently as Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced the plan to implement them earlier this week. The system is set to cover “higher-risk” indoor spaces where masks can’t be worn at all times and will be applied in the following non-essential settings effective September 22, 2021 (Powers & Carter, 2021):

  • Restaurants and bars (excluding outdoor patios, delivery and takeout).
  • Nightclubs, including outdoor areas.
  • Meeting and event spaces like banquet halls and convention centres.
  • Sports and fitness facilities and gyms, with the exception of youth recreational sports.
  • Sporting events.
  • Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments.
  • Concerts, music festivals, theatres and cinemas.
  • Strip clubs, bath houses and sex clubs.
  • Racing venues.

The Power of Words

Health experts have recently claimed that the use of the term “passport” is causing more harm than good (Bensadoun, 2021). Ever since the concept of “vaccine passports” were introduced last year, falsified information has and continues to bombard public forums. As such, the level of support towards the implementation of this immunization record system has plummeted. 

Dr. Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist and science communicator teaching at the University of Ottawa, claims that passports suggest “restrictions” and that “we [tend to] think of passports [and immediately associate them with] border control. You think of uninformed individuals looking up and down, asking for your papers and restricting you from something you feel you have a right to access” (Bensadoun, 2021).

A Familiar Concept

It is important to remember that vaccine passports-or in other words, immunization records have existed for many years and are common around the world. In most provinces in Canada, public schools will require proof of a child’s immunization record in order to attend. 

In the words of Maxwell Smith, a bioethicist and professor at Western University, “people feel that their liberties are being infringed upon with these sort of systems, despite the fact that we have always ordered society in the name of public health with particular protections that protect populations and we view vaccination status as one of those ways to do that” (Bensadoun, 2021).

References

Bensadoun, E. (2021, September 8). ‘Vaccine passport’ or ‘immunization record’? Why experts say there’s power in words – national. Global News. Retrieved September 9, 2021, from https://globalnews.ca/news/8171936/vaccine-passport-language-concerns/.

Powers, L., & Carter, A. (2021, September 2). Ontarians will need to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination for indoor DINING, GYMS, Theatres | CBC News. CBCnews. Retrieved September 9, 2021, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-covid-vaccine-passport-certificate-proof-1.6160728.

About the Author

Bairavie Piravakaran (she/her) is a second-year undergraduate at the University of Toronto Scarborough. As a Psychological & Health Sciences student, she values the importance of sharing credible information and making health resources more accessible to the public. Her interests in population health, research, and design are also reflected in her non-academic pursuits—she currently with the Young Leaders of Public Health and Medicine (YLPHM) as a Social Media Manager for the Scarborough Chapter and is a Health Promotion & Analytics Member at Critical Health Innovations Lab (CHIL). At EMPOWER Health, Bairavie works closely with the Marketing Team in order to plan and execute strategies that help inform the public about current health-related topics.

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