The top doctor in one of Ontario's COVID-19 hot spots said Wednesday that he's looking into what could be done locally to create a vaccine certificate program if the province doesn't implement one.
Peel Region's Dr. Lawrence Loh said that option was being explored as he reiterates a call for the Ontario government to bring in a vaccine certificate program, which could limit access to certain non-essential activities to those who are fully immunized.
"Peel Public Health is also actively exploring with other public health units what could be done locally on a vaccine certificate program absent a provincial solution," Loh told reporters.
Loh said that in the short term, vaccine certificates can help to reduce transmission of COVID-19 and limit risk for those who are unvaccinated in settings where precautions can't be consistently maintained.
"While the vaccine is very good at reducing the risk of infection, it does not eliminate the risk of infection," he said. "If you start getting into settings where there are lots of people who are unable to follow precautions - think gyms, restaurants, etcetera - then what you're going to have is anyone who's unvaccinated at a risk of those other severe outcomes."
Loh said vaccine certificates ultimately protect unvaccinated people by ensuring they're not in higher-risk situations, but noted that ensuring they are fully immunized offers even better protection.
Premier Doug Ford has so far refused to bring in a provincewide vaccine certificate system.
A spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott noted Wednesday that the province provides proof-of-vaccination receipts for residents after they get their first and second doses, and said vaccine passports planned by the federal government for international travel could be used domestically by businesses.
There have been recent calls from a number of associations, unions and advocacy groups to implement a provincewide vaccine certification system, particularly in light of the highly contagious Delta variant that's driving a fourth wave of infections.
Ontario's chamber of commerce released a framework Tuesday for private sector businesses seeking to develop COVID-19 proof-of-vaccination protocols, a move it said aimed to provide support in the absence of government guidance.
Loh added Wednesday that his public health unit – which serves Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon – is asking local employers to review their workplace safety plans and decide if a proof-of-vaccine policy would be suitable for them.
According to the latest provincial data, slightly more than 82 per cent of Ontarians aged 12 and older have received one dose of a vaccine, and just over 75 per cent have had two shots.
Other provinces have announced plans for proof-of-vaccination systems.
On Monday, British Columbia said its residents will need a vaccine card to get into restaurants, clubs, ticketed sporting events and organized gatherings like weddings.
Quebec, meanwhile, will be requiring proof of both vaccine doses starting Sept. 1 to access non-essential services such as bars and restaurants.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 25, 2021.
Elena De Luigi, The Canadian Press