The place London’s public well being leaders are on native vaccine passports

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Jennifer Bieman

Publication date:

August 26, 20211 hour ago3 minutes read 7 comments (Photo illustration) (Photo illustration) Photo by DADO RUVIC /REUTERS

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If the Doug Ford government doesn’t issue vaccination certificates, then maybe your local health authorities could.

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The head of the umbrella group representing Ontario’s 34 public health units says health officials are not ruling out coordinated action in the absence of a provincial vaccine passport system as the fourth wave kicks in.

While the Association of Local Public Health Authorities would prefer a provincial COVID-19 vaccine passport, health authorities are considering “regional approaches” to the problem if the Ontario government does not act, said President Dr. Paul Roumeliotis.

“One-time health sessions alone are not really a viable option,” remarked Roumeliotis in an email. “We needed a uniform, efficient mobile standardized vaccination certificate, since the (Ontario vaccine) receipts are not forgery-proof and are quite difficult to read.”

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However, don’t expect a local or regional vaccination record system in the greater London area anytime soon, the city’s deputy health official said Thursday.

“(Local) vaccination records are not easy to live with and are certainly not preferred. We strongly support a provincial solution. Local vaccine passports are not currently being developed by the Middlesex-London Health Unit, ”said Assistant Medical Officer Alex Summers.

“A regional patchwork approach will be a challenge for the people and for the implementation.”

With health units busy managing the fourth wave spike, vaccine adoption, and other public health initiatives, developing and deploying a regional vaccine passport system would be a logistical challenge, Summers said.

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A vaccination record is a document that certifies that a person is fully vaccinated and can be used to exclude unvaccinated people from certain attitudes or activities. The discussion of a provincial vaccination record for non-essential activities is separate from the federal initiative already in the works to be used to certify vaccination cards abroad for Canadians.

Health officials have the legal authority to issue ordinances to protect the health of their communities under Section 22 of the Ontario Health Promotion and Protection Act. The law was used last summer by the London Area Health Unit to prescribe masks in public places prior to provincial mandate.

The health unit is not currently considering using a Section 22 order to require proof of vaccination to enter public spaces in London and Middlesex Counties, Summers said, but officials are constantly monitoring the evolving threat from the Delta variant peak.

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“We will always investigate what tools are available to us to protect the health of our community,” he said.

Other provinces, including Quebec, Manitoba, and BC, are introducing provincial vaccination records that exclude people without a vaccination certificate from non-essential activities such as dining out and sporting events.

The Ontario government has repeatedly stated that it will not issue vaccination records to the general public, but has mandated COVID-19 vaccination in some settings, including hospitals and post-secondary campuses. The province issues people with a certificate of vaccination when they receive their first and second doses.

The Association of Local Public Health Authorities sent a letter to Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health recommending a vaccination certification system. The group says a provincial mandate would immediately increase intake at a time when vaccination rate growth has slowed significantly, said Roumeliotis, who is also a health doctor in eastern Ontario.

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Several private companies and venues in Ontario have issued their own vaccination mandates in the absence of a provincial passport system.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns and operates Scotiabank Arena, home of the Toronto Raptors and Maple Leafs, will require spectators to have a vaccination certificate or a negative COVID-19 test starting this fall.

Concert giant Live Nation is planning a similar vaccination policy.

The Ontario Hockey League requires anyone wishing to see any of the league’s 17 Ontario-based teams in person to provide proof of full COVID-19 vaccination.

The Middlesex-London Health Unit is encouraging employers to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for their employees.

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