What is this "vaccine passport" concept and why will it be implemented this fall by the Quebec government?
The Quebec government announced on July 8, 2021 that the concept of a “vaccine passport” would be introduced in the fall. Let’s take a look at the vaccination situation and what this vaccine passport could mean for everyday life and for travel.
The vaccination situation in Quebec
The concept of a vaccine passport could be introduced next fall if there is a resurgence in the number of cases, linked to the new variants.
The vaccination campaign in Quebec has been a success since it has allowed life to return to more or less normal for over a month, reducing the average number of daily cases from 2,500 (January 2021) at the height of winter to an average of 68 cases per day (week of July 4, 2021).
We can congratulate ourselves as 82% of the Quebec population (12 years and older) has already received a first dose of vaccine and because more than 40% is fully vaccinated.
However, there has been a plateau in the last month for the “12 to 45” age groups, which seem reluctant to go for the vaccine, even though the results are more than encouraging.
Vaccination has been shown to be effective in reducing the severity of cases and thus the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19.
Using the Pfizer vaccine as an example, after the second dose, trials showed that 12-15 year olds had 100% protection and those over 16 had 95% protection. Side effects were generally mild to moderate (injection site pain, chills, fatigue and/or fever).
The beginning of the school year is going to be stressful with the arrival of the Delta variant (previously called the Indian variant) already affecting Israel, the United Kingdom and more and more people in Europe including France. Young people were more affected because they were not yet vaccinated.
A Lancet study showed that the Delta variant is twice as aggressive as the British Alpha variant, with a doubling of hospitalizations. The Pfizer vaccine would only provide 79% protection after the second dose at D-14 against this Delta variant.
The concept of herd immunity
Remember that to achieve herd immunity, a significant proportion of the population must be vaccinated. This is to allow for less circulation of the virus capable of spreading through the population. Each individual decision thus has consequences for the community as a whole.
In addition, herd immunity is intended to protect vulnerable groups of people who cannot be vaccinated (e.g., people who are allergic to vaccines).
If this herd immunity is not achieved, we will see more variants develop in the future with the risk that they will make us lose control of the epidemic.
One might wonder if contagiousness could resume and vaccines become less and less effective against these variants. Who wants to relive last year’s situation?
Some epidemiologists suggest a vaccination threshold of 80% of people over 12 years of age as a target, others 90%.
Vaccinating the youngest children would make it possible to reach this high objective and thus to continue with a resumption of commercial activities more easily but also to avoid the closure of establishments again at the beginning of the next school year.
The Vaccine Passport Concept
The Quebec government foresees an increase in cases caused by this Delta variant and does not want to relive the hell experienced last winter.
The Minister of Health and Social Services, Christian Dubé, has announced that the vaccine passport will be implemented as needed when:
- two doses of vaccine will have been offered to the entire Quebec population aged 12 and over; that is, by the target date of September 1;
- the situation in a given territory justifies its use.
It cannot be used to access public or essential services (school, college, university or health care).
On the other hand, it may be for non-essential activities or activities that are:
- high risk with a limited number of people (gyms, team sports, bars, restaurants, etc);
- moderate to low risk with a higher number of people (arts and entertainment, festivals, large events, sports matches, etc.).
The government is thus pushing Quebecers who are reluctant to be vaccinated to get vaccinated as a group in order to avoid any backlash with confinements or closures of restaurants and bars in Quebec, for example.
Getting vaccinated is made very easy. With or without an appointment, there is no shortage of centres offering vaccination, and pharmacies participate in order to give people as many opportunities as possible.
All fully protected individuals will have access to the benefits of the vaccine passport, which are to:
- avoid isolation for 14 days after contact with a positive case;
- move around more freely by showing a QR code, obtained after full vaccination protection;
- no longer having to follow the measures on distancing and wearing masks indoors and outdoors;
- travel outside of Canada and not have to undergo the 14-day quarantine upon return.
The example of the French health pass
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Quebec government has often been inspired by the measures taken by the French government (curfews, traffic restrictions by region, confinement, etc.).
This is partly due to the fact that Europe is usually 4 weeks ahead of the epidemic. This leads us to believe that the measures currently being taken in France could arrive as early as the beginning of the September school year in Canada and Quebec.
What are these measures announced by President Emmanuel Macron?
In a solemn address to the Nation on July 12, 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron announced several measures:
- The health pass will be validated for people who have been fully vaccinated for more than two weeks or for those who have had a recent negative PCR or antigen test
- From 21 July, the French health pass will be made compulsory for people over 12 years of age in places of leisure and culture when the capacity exceeds 50 people (amusement parks, concerts, shows)
- From August, the health pass will be extended:
- to passengers on buses, trains and planes,
- to customers in cafés, bars, restaurants and shopping centres,
- to patients in hospitals, nursing homes and medico-social establishments.
- From 15 September, the health pass will be extended to nursing and non-healthcare staff in health establishments, volunteers and other professionals working in contact with the elderly or frail.
- From the beginning of the school year, vaccination campaigns will be launched specifically for young people aged 12 to 18.
President Macron is aiming for a summer of mobilization for vaccination and insists on the civic-mindedness and sense of responsibility of citizens. Penalties will be imposed from 15 September onwards for those who do not comply with the measure.
We must move towards the vaccination of all French people because this is the only way to return to normal life.
Near your home, at your holiday destination, with or without an appointment, get vaccinated, it’s the only way to protect yourself and others, it’s the sense of collective responsibility, it’s what our freedom depends on.
Everywhere, we will have the same approach, recognizing good citizenship and putting restrictions on the unvaccinated rather than on everyone.Le Président de la République Française E. Macron
The effect was immediate: all the platforms for making appointments for the vaccination were saturated in the evening!
All these measures will no doubt be well observed by the Quebec and Canadian governments.
What about travel?
There is no longer any doubt that the vaccine passport will be a major asset if Canadian travellers want to get their suitcase out of the closet and go, whether within our borders or internationally.
Several countries, such as Vietnam, Australia, Japan and Europe, are considering its introduction or have already set up a similar system for international visitors.
The crisis has also made it possible to point the finger at mass tourism and to think about a more sustainable and eco-responsible tourism. Without tourism, many businesses or small hands will suffer from poverty.
The revival of tourism is necessary but will take time. It will depend in large part on the success of vaccination campaigns and measures taken to ensure that travellers are vaccinated.
Each country is currently doing its utmost to achieve herd immunity, even if it will not be reached before the summer of 2022 for some (Cambodia for example).
Tourism industry bosses believe that the recovery of tourism will be achieved through the introduction of this global vaccine passport in the hope of eventually curbing the virus.
A universal passport is not unthinkable, even if it remains complicated to set up because of the standards of each country.
The future will tell!
As a final word, I would conclude that being fully vaccinated brings a significant serenity for oneself and for others.
So, let’s all participate in this collective effort to get rid of this virus and be able to travel again!