Premier Doug Ford of Ontario says he’s working on getting rid of the vaccine passport system, which compels people to produce proof of immunization before entering a variety of venues.
“As part of our reopening plan, we are on schedule to eliminate practically all business restrictions very soon,” Ford said at a news conference on Friday. “And we heard from Dr. Moore last week, and we heard from him again yesterday, that he is working on a strategy to get rid of the vaccine passport system.” This is fantastic news, because it demonstrates how far we’ve come together in this struggle.”
His comments come after Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said Thursday that he will be reviewing all public health measures “in the coming days” and could be making recommendations to the government as soon as next week about how to go about lifting some of them.
“Evidence is showing we’re making remarkable improvement in all of the key metrics in Ontario, and that forces us to review all public health measures that are in place,” Dr. Kieran Moore told reporters Thursday. “None of them are expected to remain in play longer than they need to be.”
He added that there will be systems and timelines for removing health measures and that it will be done in “a graded, cautious manner.”
Ford said that plans to end the vaccine passport system were being made “well before this protest started” and are not being made in response to the trucker convoy protests that have caused chaos in Ottawa and at border crossings and spurred a state of emergency declaration Friday.
“I will never ever negotiate (with) people that break the law, that people that are in there illegally in occupying cities,” Ford said. “I base it (decisions) on health, I base it on science. Dr. Moore has clearly said it’s time to move forward. I look forward to Dr. Moore’s measures and recommendations and will continue to work with Dr. Moore to reopen safely and cautiously.”
Speaking specifically about vaccine passports Thursday, Moore added that they have “done their job” to help protect people against the virus, but that they will not continue forever.
“There comes a time we have to reconsider and review their ongoing utility and as the risk goes down in our communities, we have to look at removal of proof of vaccination in all of those settings,” Moore said.
In Ontario, people are currently required to show proof of vaccination at indoor dining facilities such as restaurants and bars, as well as meeting and event spaces, gyms, concert venues and other settings.
People must show a QR code indicating that they have had two COVID-19 shots as part of an approved vaccine series.
However a number of critics have recently questioned the usefulness of having a vaccine passport system that considers people with two doses fully vaccinated in the face of COVID-19 variants like Omicron, which has been able to get around two doses of vaccine with relative ease.
Evidence so far has suggested that a third dose greatly enhances protection against Omicron. However asked Thursday about whether the province might simply modify the existing vaccine passport system to define three doses as being fully vaccinated, Moore said that would not be “realistic” given the relatively low uptake of third doses across the province.
“I believe we must be realistic,” he stated. “We have 6.6 million Ontarians who have come forward for their third doses; we’re not going to wait and require that five more million Ontarians get inoculated with third doses through proof of immunization.”
While provincial officials stated in December that they hoped to provide booster doses at a rate of 200,000 to 300,000 shots per day, they only met that goal four times in late December, and the number of shots given out per day across the province has decreased since then.