Vaccine resisters are lazy and irresponsible — we need vaccine passports now to protect the rest of us

Posted on August 1, 2021 in Health Policy Context

Source: — Authors: – Business/Opinion
July 30, 2021.   By David Olive, Star Business Columnist

Vaccination passports are coming.

Many Canadians object to getting vaccinated and bearing proof of their vaccination, but that’s where we’re heading.

The vaccination rate among patriotic Canadians is higher than that of almost any country. But it’s much too soon to take a victory lap.

COVID-19 numbers are on the rise again. They threaten a fourth wave of sickness, death, lockdowns and layoffs. They have already begun to dampen hopes of a long-awaited economic recovery.

Europe already is mired in a fourth wave. And the U.S. appears to be heading into one, with a July resumption of double-digit increases in infection rates.

After a brilliant start in Canada, vaccination rates have stalled out, here and around the world. They have hit a wall of resistance, far short of the number of fully vaccinated people required to ensure the safety of everyone.

The ultra-infectious Delta variant is taking the blame for COVID-19’s alarming comeback. But the real cause is people refusing to get vaccinated. 

Public-health experts have warned for months that we must vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, to outrun the inevitable emergence of COVID-19 variants.

But in the race between vaccination and variants, we are losing. The Delta variant, a relatively recent development that we could have protected ourselves against simply by getting everyone vaccinated, now accounts for almost all infections and deaths.

There are more, and possibly even more dangerous, COVID-19 variants in the wings, including the Gamma and Lambda variants.

That should not be a surprise. Viruses mutate every 10 hours. The way pandemics end is that viruses eventually mutate into something no longer harmful to humans. But that could be years away.

Canada’s rate of fully vaccinated people is closing in on 60 per cent. But that still leaves us with about six million unvaccinated people.

Unvaccinated people are a threat to economic recovery and a return to normal life for everyone. When unvaccinated people fall sick, and spread COVID-19 to others, yet another round of lockdowns results.

That in turn dampens consumer confidence and business investment and threatens supply chains. And it keeps labour shortages acute.

Continued fear of COVID-19 keeps people from returning to work away from home. If renewed outbreaks require a re-closing of schools, parents will stay home to care for their children.

The current slowing pace of vaccination, in other words, condemns us to a stagnant economy while keeping Canadians at risk of a deadly disease.

And so, we need, and will eventually have, vaccination passports.

There have been scattered reports that Ottawa is working on a national “vaccination certificate.” But it won’t be ready until December, far too late. Europe is already deploying proof of vaccination documents. (See below.)

And, strictly speaking, a certificate isn’t a “vaccine passport,” currently the term for vaccination documents for international travel.

We need a single passport for domestic and international use. After all, we don’t carry domestic and international credit cards.

Passports are the surest way of boosting the portion of fully vaccinated Canadians to the 90 per cent-plus level we need in order to put this crisis behind us.

We need a streamlined national passport system.

Canada currently has a crazy quilt of “proof of vaccination” documents. They are issued by provinces, local health authorities, and even individual employers. They are inconsistent in their data and design, making them difficult or impossible to recognize beyond their point of issue.

Meanwhile, Britain, France, Italy, China and Israel have recently implemented various forms of vaccination passports, as infection rates have unexpectedly soared.

The European Union is introducing a passport that covers its 27 member countries as well as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein.

A chief argument against passports is that they create what Ontario Premier Doug Ford calls a “split society” of the vaccinated and unvaccinated, which he opposes.

But that’s the point of vaccination passports.

Their function is to exclude unvaccinated people from certain places, especially those where people congregate, unless they take special precautions like continuing to wear a mask and social distancing.

Passports do indeed mean that vaccinated people will have privileges denied to unvaccinated people.

But that is a commonplace in our society.

People with driver’s licenses, medical degrees, plumbing certificates, and employee security passes have privileges denied to others.

This has also been described as an equity issue. It isn’t. An unvaccinated person is just two vaccine doses, free of cost, away from retaining his or her privileges.

And just two jabs away from being spared the chronic ailments suffered by as many as 30 per cent of people who have “recovered” from a COVID-19 infection, a phenomenon doctors call “long COVID.” 

Those lingering symptoms, which can last a year or longer, include hallucinations, memory loss and heart palpitations.

Speaking of equity, lotteries and other inducements to coerce the unvaccinated to get their jabs are unfair to Canadians who did their civic duty without expectation of a financial windfall that is paid for out of everyone’s taxes.

Passports that help prevent mingling of vaccinated and unvaccinated people are the most effective tool we have to prevent a fourth wave.

They are also intended to powerfully motivate people to get vaccinated.

As such, proof of vaccination safeguards your privileges and freedoms.

One of those privileges is a job.

The U.S. government has just mandated proof of vaccination for millions of its employees.

In Ontario, employers are required by provincial law and collective bargaining agreements to maintain safe workplaces. Many employers now demand proof of vaccination of employees. That number will increase.

And stores, bars, restaurants, and concert venues that don’t demand proof of vaccination are vulnerable to class-action lawsuits over failing to protect their customers and employees.

The law is not yet clear on the COVID-19-related responsibilities of businesses. But just fighting the lawsuits, regardless of their merit, is an expense and distraction businesses seek to avoid.

We need a national vaccination passport, recognized not only throughout Canada but the world.

And the feds are the ones to create and administer it.

They have the world-class anti-counterfeiting expertise to do it. (Fake vaccination passports are available on the black market for about $200). And the feds alone have the ability to make Canadian passports compatible with those of other countries.

Finally, a word on a passports’ supposed infringement on personal freedoms.

French President Emmanuel Macron has lost patience with the libertarian world view that largely drives the anti-vax movement. At this writing, COVID-19 has killed 111,883 people in France.

Macron might be chief representative of a people who worship at the altar of “liberté, égalité, fraternité,” but unstrained freedom that could sicken Macron himself with COVID-19 is a social ill.

“I am a victim of your freedom,” Macron said.

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