While the majority of the population appears to support Quebec’s plan to require vaccine passports, human rights advocates and privacy experts caution they could infringe on personal liberties and drive marginalized communities further underground
A random sampling of Montrealers interviewed Friday showed many are in favour of restricting access for the unvaccinated at high-risk locales like bars and gyms in the event of outbreaks, arguing it serves the common good and will spur those who have not yet been inoculated to do so.
“I think it’s imperative,” said Vince De Angelis. “It’s a world illness and I think it takes a world and a community to heal it. … There’s a balance between social security and individual liberties that are going to be at play.”
Keri Dogon supports the idea because she has a friend who is not inoculated who said she would get the vaccine if restrictions were imposed.
“She doesn’t want to be unable to live her life or go places or travel, so I do think it’s a good idea. I understand why people think it’s taking her rights, but I’m for it.”
A Léger poll taken in late May showed the majority of Canadians are, too. More than 70 per cent said people should have to show proof of vaccination to attend university classes or events with large crowds, such as concerts or sporting events, or to travel by airplane.
For pharmacologist Sabina Vohra-Miller, co-founder of the Toronto-based South Asian Health Network and the Vohra Miller Foundation, however, the concept of vaccine passports serves only to “further marginalize communities that already have built-in inequities.”
Many of those not yet vaccinated include migrant or undocumented workers frightened of being deported, essential service workers, people with mobility issues and racialized groups with a deep-rooted distrust of the health-care system.
“What’s going to happen when you disallow people from certain activities is you further stigmatize and disadvantage the same populations that have been very marginalized throughout the entire pandemic,” Vohra-Miller said. “So it’s just going to perpetuate inequities.”
Governments should focus instead on education and outreach programs to get vaccines to those groups, she said. They should also maintain non-pharmaceutical protections against COVID-19, such as social distancing and masks, until most of the population has received their two doses, instead of the rapid easing of restrictions happening Canada-wide, she added.
“I think the way to improve vaccine uptake is to do the hard work of education. That way, in the long run you improve vaccine confidence, as opposed to this short-term solution that won’t solve the problem.”