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Implementing vaccine passports could leave people behind, say experts

Last Updated Apr 21, 2021 at 3:58 pm PDT

OTTAWA — In an effort to revive the travel and tourism industry, Denmark has created the vaccine passport: digital documents that track a person’s COVID-19 related health.

The passport would eliminate the need for travellers to quarantine when visiting other countries.

But despite the good intentions, experts have a warning.

“This is potentially opening a real Pandora’s box,” said Cara Zwibel with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

“If we’re going try to think about setting up a system where proof of vaccination gets you access to certain things, then we have to recognize that we’re going to be leaving a lot of people behind.”

In other words, Zwibel says a vaccine passport could create a two-tiered society, with some granted access to travel and events while others sit on the bench.


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But with economies floundering, countries like Denmark have decided the incentives outweigh the disadvantages.

“If governments are keen to ignite travel in the near term, it might be that level of assurance that everyone is looking for in order to open up a bit of tourism,” said tourism expert Joe Pavelka.

Pavelka says Canada’s tourism industry has been devastated by the pandemic.

Although he sees the good intentions behind the idea of a vaccine passport, he doesn’t believe the idea would fly for long.

“If it is instituted, it would likely be a near-term solution in order to get people moving. I do not see it being a long-term fixture.”

WATCH: Will vaccine passports be required for travel? (Feb. 4, 2021)

Critics say a vaccine passport would exclude lower-income families, people with medical conditions that prevent them from getting a vaccine, and people with certain religious views.

The idea would also likely be faced with significant legal challenges.

“We’re not mandating vaccinations, but if we make access to public space contingent upon it, we are really coercing people in some cases,” said Zwibel.

A recent report from Canada’s chief science advisor raised several concerns about the idea but did not outright reject it.