Ontario health units prepared to create their own vaccine certificate: Eastern Ontario top doctor
OTTAWA -- The president of the Association of Local Public Health Agencies says Ontario's health units will implement their own vaccine certificate in September if the Ontario government doesn't rollout a province-wide system.
Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, Eastern Ontario's Medical Officer of Health, says the medical officers of health agreed on Wednesday to create their own proof of vaccination certificate in each jurisdiction to prove someone has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
"We want a provincial one, let's make it clear. It would be easier if it's provincial because then it's across the board and there won't be interregional differences," said Dr. Roumeliotis during an interview on CTV Morning Live.
"We need something digital, something that's confidential and an alternative card, Manitoba has that as well, Quebec and B.C. all have those alternatives."
Dr. Roumeliotis says with the growing number of post-secondary institutions, organizations, businesses and events requiring proof of vaccination to attend, "It makes it much easier, more convenient for the people letting you in."
The Quebec government will implement a vaccine passport on Sept. 1, which will be used to access non-essential services. British Columbia has also announced plans for a vaccine passport.
Dr. Roumeliotis says there are two issues here; one is the implementation of a vaccine certificate program, and the other is Ontario needs to impose a vaccine mandate to access non-essential services.
"In the first place, we do need something more digital and that can also be printed, like a card," said Dr. Roumelitois, noting the current proof of vaccination system is "easily forgeable."
"We also need to have some kind of a mandate, like B.C. and Quebec, in order for us to be able to, number one increase the number of people being vaccinated. Number two we want to keep the businesses open Ok, because right now with the Delta variant we need to reach a higher level of vaccination, which we don't have yet."
Dr. Roumeliotis says the Association of Medical Officers of Health met on Wednesday to discuss the idea of a province-wide vaccination system if the Ontario government doesn't introduce a system. He adds the Ontario Science Advisory Table and chambers of commerce across the province support a vaccine passport system.
"To preserve businesses and to make life easier for everybody, we need that vaccine certificate – legitimate, uniform, standardized approach, and we need to look at these mandates in non-essential services as well, like Quebec and B.C. has done," said Dr. Roumeliotis.
"That's going to be one way of nudging people to getting their vaccine, and number two I think it's public health measures that we need to do that will in my opinion replace the need to go into lockdown."
The Eastern Ontario Medical Officer of Health says Ottawa Public Health supports the implementation of a proof of vaccination certificate.
The office of Health Minister Christine Elliott told CTV News Ottawa on Wednesday there are no plans to introduce a COVID-19 vaccine passport.
"Since the start of our vaccine rollout, Ontarians have had the ability to download or print an electronic COVID-19 vaccine receipt through the provincial portal, or by calling the provincial booking line, should proof of vaccination be required in a certain setting," said the minister's office.
Renfrew County's acting medical officer of health says it is just a matter of time before a vaccine passport is implemented.
"We're all very strongly in favour of this and it's to protect our health, to protect the schools, to protect our jobs and the economy and to get our social lives as quickly back to normal as we can," said Dr. Robert Cushman during an interview on Newstalk 580 CFRA's Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.
"The real issue is how and when, and the government – this is a Conservative government so you can see it is not in their philosophy, ideology to do this."
Cushman says medical officers of health do have the legal authority to put in place a vaccine passport in "terms of protecting public places or private places where the public has access."
If Ontario doesn't implement a vaccine passport, Cushman suggests it could be introduced in regions instead of each individual health unit. A regional approach for eastern Ontario would cover the health units for Ottawa, Renfrew County, Eastern Ontario, Leeds-Grenville and Lanark and the Kingston region.
Cushman says medical officers of health would prefer the province set up an Ontario proof of vaccination system.
"Clearly, we're looking for leadership. Politicians need to lead and they need to lead in particular in times of crisis. We're all fed up with this, and I think it will really help us get on back to normal, jobs, health, social life, schools," said Cushman.
"We're looking for that leadership, and it's time to put ideology aside."
Two weeks ago, Ontario's Big City Mayors called on Ontario to create a local proof-of-vaccination system that would allow people to show they are vaccinated. In a statement on Aug. 13, the leaders of Ontario's largest municipalities said vaccination records are helping businesses and event spaces reopen safely.
Dr. Roumeliotis said Wednesday that it is inevitable that Ontario will need to introduce a proof of vaccination system this fall so residents can prove they have received the COVID-19 vaccine.
CTV News Ottawa's Christina Succi reached out to public health units across Ontario to ask whether they support implementing a vaccination certificate if the province doesn't introduce one.
Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit
“The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit does not plan to issue vaccine certificates. This is personal health information and each person can download their vaccine certificate from the provincial Website to be used as needed; anything beyond this will ideally be organized by the province.”
Windsor-Essex County Health Unit
"The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is committed to protecting the health of our community and has actively engaged with provincial partners and other public health units throughout this pandemic. On the matter of vaccine passports, there is not a provincial consensus amongst Medical Officers of Health however the WECHU continues to engage with its public health colleagues to review and consider strategies to mitigate the rising spread of COVID-19 and the Delta variant."
Huron-Perth Health Unit
Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH) would prefer a provincial approach to mandating vaccines, said the health unit.
"Some health units are starting to look at what might be possible as a regional approach in the absence of a provincial direction; each health unit developing their own strategy is not really a viable option and could lead to a patchwork of inconsistent approaches across the province."
Durham Region Health Department
"Durham Region Health Department’s position is that it would be best for such a process to be implemented at the provincial level to provide a consistent approach throughout all jurisdictions across Ontario."
Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit
"The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit’s position is that a vaccine passport would best be implemented at the provincial level. This would eliminate the inconsistencies of having different approaches implemented across the province."