Vaccine Passports and Being Fully Vaccinated
Although most provinces are ending their Covid measures over the next month, including vaccine passports and face mask requirements, there hasn’t been a consistent approach. British Columbia plans to keep vaccine passports and mask requirements for some time. Quebec and Ontario are dropping most restrictions including vaccine passports, but have yet to release a complete plan on the future of mask mandates.
With the most recent wave of Covid infections ebbing, now is the time to plan for future surges in infection. We’ll have no excuse if we find ourselves with a spike in Covid cases in a few months and our governments are still drafting policies as they go. Having an idea of what to expect in terms of policies will make it much easier for business owners to stay afloat, and for the rest of us to keep our stress levels from going through the roof.
Beyond defining at exactly what point in a future wave businesses and schools would be forced to close or reduce capacity, we need to plan the future of vaccine passports, including the number and types of shots needed to be considered fully vaccinated. The Quebec government has stated that it will not hesitate to bring vaccine passports back as needed. The future will however be very unlike the past. When Covid vaccines first came out, everyone was starting from the same point. No one had a dose, and the vaccines had been shown to significantly reduce transmission of Covid variants circulating at the time, creating a strong incentive for younger people to get vaccinated. In the future, however, some people will likely have had four or more Covid shots, while other segments of the population will have had only two. Many others will have already been infected with Covid, having had mild or even no symptoms at all, giving natural immunity and perhaps causing them to be less concerned about the virus.
Vaccines adapted to future variants will take time to develop, meaning that vaccines available as a new wave emerges will likely target previous variants and be less effective at stopping transmission. If vaccines reduce the likelihood of severe symptoms but don’t stop transmission, the case for vaccine passports is weaker.
As the relatively slow uptake for the third Covid shot has shown, fewer people will be proactively looking to get future Covid vaccines. This coupled with a potential chaotic rollout of future vaccine passports, and where different provinces take substantially different approaches, would not be a recipe for success. It would also further stoke public anger within certain segments of the population of the type we’ve endured over the first part of this year.
By planning for as many scenarios as possible now and explaining early under what conditions vaccine passports will return and what the system would look like we’ll be in a better position to control future waves of the virus. If we see that because of logistical challenges including those mentioned here vaccine passports will no longer be viable, our governments should say so sooner than later.