Immunization passports or vaccine certificates will be more of a national responsibility, if it happens at all, according to the NWT’s chief public health officer.

Chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola says the idea of immunization documents for official proof of vaccination is more of a national discussion, not a GNWT responsibility.
NNSL file photo

“Around the vaccine certificate or a vaccine passport, we ourselves in the NWT have not generated that,” said Dr. Kami Kandola during a Feb. 26 news conference.

“I think this is more of a national discussion, because if someone in Ontario got vaccinated and they wanted to come to the NWT and if we had more data on transmission and found that people who are doubly vaccinated don’t transmit the virus, that could be a game changer.”

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, announced on March 1 via Twitter that her government is planning on introducing a travel-related passport. Called a ‘Digital Green Pass,’ the document would allow freer travel by proving that a person had been vaccinated.

In the Northwest Territories, there has been little discussion of the issue at all. Health and Social Services Minister Julie Green said in January that vaccinations aren’t mandatory, however, there are some public spaces that may require proof of immunization before access is granted.

The CPHO oversees an electronic medical record system where all vaccination information is kept. Kandola said the current system provides for “permanent storage” of vaccine information to make it easier for administration and tracking people for later doses.

“If you got your vaccine in Hay River but were in Yellowknife for the second dose, they can basically go into the electronic medical record, retrieve your record and know when you got the first dose and where you got the first dose,” Kandola said. “They will then from that information be able to provide the second dose.”

While the GNWT does issue immunization cards, they are not intended for travel or proof of vaccination, according to an email from the Covid Secretariat earlier this week.

“Anyone receiving a vaccine will also receive an immunization card for their personal records only,” stated Darren Campbell, manager of Covid communications with the Covid Secretariat. “The Immunization Card is not considered an official record to be used as proof for travel or other purposes and it does not contain unique identifying information. “

Dr. Anne-Marie Pegg, territorial medical director, added, “We have had some people requesting proof of vaccination for travel or for various other reasons and there is a form for this request. That’s available through the Department of Health and Social Services website where you can find the process there for requesting a copy of part of your electronic medical record with that vaccination info on it.”

Campbell stated that people needing proof of vaccination are to fill out the Request to Access or Correct Your Health Information Form and contact their local public health unit or community health centre to request a copy of their vaccine record.

“It is important that you return for your second dose to be considered immunized against Covid-19,” Campbell stated.

A media spokesperson with Health Canada and Public Health Agency of Canada stated in an email on Thursday that certificates are being considered.

“Governments and international bodies around the world are exploring the possible use of vaccination certificates as one tool to support the reopening of societies and economies,” a spokesperson stated in an email. “An immunity passport or ‘risk-free certificate’ is a document that is considered by some as evidence that a person has either recovered from Covid-19 or has been vaccinated.”

The statement goes on to say that the federal government is monitoring other jurisdictions in how they are “granting privileges to vaccinated people through a certification process.

“Any similar consideration in the Canadian context would have to be based on reliable scientific evidence,” says the statement, which adds that “any move toward issuing such a document” would require agreement from the GNWT.

Vaccinations and asymptomatic individuals

The Health Canada spokesperson said there still remains some uncertainty around how well vaccinations work in stopping asymptomatic people from transmitting the virus.

“Scientific evidence is clear that the Covid-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada are highly effective at preventing illness,” the spokesperson said. “However, it is unknown whether vaccinated individuals can still be asymptomatic and spread the virus, thus can still pose a public health risk.”

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