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It's time for an Ontario vaccine passport, York Region's top doctor says

Different apps from each health unit 'not a viable option', Dr. Karim Kurji says
Aug. 27, 2021
Kim Zarzour

York Region’s top doctor is urging the Ontario government to come up with a standardized approach to vaccine passports.

Dr. Karim Kurji, medical officer of health, was responding to reports a growing number of local health units are ready to implement their own passports if the province doesn’t step up.

At a news conference earlier this week, Peel’s medical officer of health, Dr. Lawrence Loh said he and other health units are exploring what can be done about passports in the absence of a provincial certificate.

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Medical Officer of Health for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit and president of the Association of Local Public Health Agencies, also supported the idea, saying his health unit is prepared to explore its own passport solution.

A number of medical and business organizations have called for a standardized approach, including the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, the Ontario Medical Association, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

Kurji said discussions about mandating vaccines and certificates/passports as a way to curb virus spread and prevent further business lockdowns are underway.

The additional measures are essential for security and safety of unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals, given the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant, he said.

At this time, eight out of 10 cases of COVID-19 are in either unvaccinated or partially vaccinated individuals, Kurji said.

These individuals have a high likelihood of ending up in hospital and in ICUs.

“We have to protect businesses in our communities,” he said. “Applying a broad brush of capacity restrictions is unfair and likens to reverting to lockdown areas, which would not necessarily be as effective.”

Premier Doug Ford has repeatedly rejected calls for vaccine passports, saying he doesn’t want a “split society".

As more and more businesses, organizations and institutions implement vaccine mandates, Kurji said, some health units have been sharing information about vaccine certificates/passport apps with secure features.

“I urge the Ontario government to consider a standardized provincial approach to vaccine certificates/passports. Having different apps from every health unit will not be a viable option.

“I hope that is the direction to be followed with consultation and in partnership with the business community, government officials and Medical Officers of Health.”