With vaccine rollouts ramping up across Canada, more than half of those asked in a recent survey say they support the idea of requiring proof of a shot for large events.
The poll, conducted by Research Co., suggests 57 per cent of Canadians are in favour of using so-called vaccine passports – or proof of vaccination – to attend a sporting event as a spectator.
"Almost three-in-five residents of British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario (59 per cent) support the concept to be put in place for live sporting events," said Mario Canseco, president of Research Co., in a news release.
"More than half of residents of Saskatchewan and Manitoba (57 per cent), Quebec (56 per cent) and Atlantic Canada (51 per cent) concur."
About the same amount – 56 per cent and 55 per cent – are in favour of the practice for going to live concerts or going to a theatre, respectively.
For international travel, the concept is even more popular, the poll's results suggest. Sixty-four per cent of Canadians surveyed said they are in favour of using them in when going to another country. Locally, however, 54 per cent said they think the practice should be in place for travel within Canada and within their own province.
In an interview with CTV News Vancouver, Canseco attributed the favourable response to vaccine passports, in part, to the circumstances people are experiencing across Canada right now.
“Ontario is a very interesting case because they’re already in lockdowns, there’s a lot of discussions about what can happen, and that can cloud your vision and say, 'Well, this is definitely something I can support because right now we can’t go anywhere,'” said Canseco. “Part of it is British Columbians really aching to have a little bit of that summer in place.”
People surveyed aged 55 and older were the most likely to be in favour of vaccine passports for travel to other provinces at 66 per cent. Meanwhile, just over 56 per cent of those aged 18 to 54 were in favour of the concept for Canadian trips.
“It’s the over 55s who are saying let’s be cautious about this, and let’s have the vaccine passport in place. It’s also the group that’s already been vaccinated so they bring a certain bias into the way they’re looking at the vaccine passport matter,” said Canseco.
“I think of the CFL, for instance ... their fan base is mostly over 55. So you could actually have a situation where you say let’s open up the CFL stadiums for people who want to go watch a game because most of this group is vaccinated and they are definitely not going to have any trouble saying here’s my proof of certification.”
For more minor events, like going to the gym or working in an office, a little more than half of those polled were still in favour of showing proof of a shot.
Quebec has announced it is rolling out a digital system to offer proof of vaccination through the use of a QR code. On May 13, residents who have already had a first dose will get an email to sign up, though how the proof of vaccination will be used is not yet known.
B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was asked about the Quebec plan during her news conference Thursday. She described it as broadly possible in B.C., but downplayed its utility.
“It's not something that we've looked at specifically, a QR code, but we do have every vaccine registered in our provincial immunization registry," Henry said. "You will have access to your immunization records electronically."
“We have not moved ahead with how we might use something like that and I don't believe we will be using anything like a vaccine passport in in British Columbia," she added.
In March, a medical ethicist from the University of British Columbia told CTV Morning Live that the idea of vaccine certificates isn't out of the question in the COVID-19 pandemic, but passports must be used carefully.
"In some cases I think it's appropriate as long as the proper processes are in place so that people who should be checked are checked, and people who are unable to have access to vaccinations are not discriminated against," Dr. Judy Illes said.
"So there is room for them to move around in our world as appropriate, as needed, even if they aren't vaccinated."
While B.C. has so far been hesitant to embrace vaccine passports as a concept, Canseco told CTV News it appears that provincial governments would be unlikely to suffer politically for introducing them.
When the results of the poll were broken down by political party affiliations, majorities of supporters of all parties remained supportive of the idea, he said.
“I was expecting Conservatives to be dead set against this," Canseco said. "You know maybe have 30 to 35 per cent of conservatives saying, ‘Yeah, maybe vaccine passports are a good idea,’ but it’s more than 50 per cent in most cases.”
Results are based on an online survey conducted by Research Co. from May 1 to May 3, 2021, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.