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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Trudeau mum on launch of vaccine passport but vows system will be ‘simple and efficient’

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OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau skirted around questions about when Canadians can expect to be equipped with formal proof of their COVID-19 vaccine status for travel abroad but vowed that the system will be both “simple and efficient.”

Speaking to reporters in Charlottetown, P.E.I., Trudeau said Ottawa will be responsible for a documentation framework for international travel specifically but that it’s up to provinces to come up with a plan domestically.

“The federal government will be involved in the international level of certification, so we have a role to play to make sure that the credentials that Canadians have are going to be able to be accepted around the world but there are lots of active conversations with the provinces on what exact form that will take,” he said.

The government is facing mounting pressure to develop a national system as other countries move quick to establish their own.

The U.K.’s NHS COVID Pass has been used domestically for some time for admittance to indoor gathering events, but is also accepted in certain countries including Greece and Spain. The EU Digital COVID Certificate, which launched on July 1, is accepted in all EU member states. Australia and New Zealand are also inching closer to the creation of a certificate.

Trudeau wouldn’t say whether one would be developed before the end of the year, only that “the conversations are active and ongoing.”

“It gives me a great opportunity to remind Canadians that you want to get fully vaccinated. The ability to travel around the world, indeed the ability to do more things and mostly the ability to avoid spikes that are going to come with the potential next arrival of variants and the spikes we’re seeing around the Delta variant in unvaccinated Canadians is something that we can prevent,” he said.

Since July 5, Canadians who are fully vaccinated are able to forgo quarantine when they return to the country from international travel.

There remains concerns about whether Canadians who mixed vaccines – taking for example a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine and a second dose of the Moderna – will be allowed into countries that don’t accept that kind of immunization regimen, despite it being authorized here.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has so far been reluctant to sanction the practice, saying it should only be done in “exceptional situations.”

Meanwhile many European countries do not recognize the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine made at the Serum Institute of India, known by the brand name Covishield, meaning Canadians who received it could find themselves barred from entry.

Princess Cruise Lines, Holland America Line and Carnival Cruise Line say customers injected with a vector vaccine such as AstraZeneca followed by an mRNA vaccine such as Pfizer or Moderna are not considered fully vaccinated. However, a combination of Pfizer and Moderna will open the gangway to guests.

With files from The Canadian Press.

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