Privacy experts concerned about Canada's forthcoming vaccine passport

The federal government is working on a national vaccine passport -- what that will look like and how it could be used is not yet known -- but privacy experts are concerned about how the information would be gathered.

“It’s not just going to be used for travel. People are talking about vaccine passports to get into concerts, to get into baseball games, football games, I mean all kinds of activities globally,” said Ann Cavoukian, executive director of the Global Privacy and Security by Design Centre.

The Toronto Maple Leafs playoff game in May is one example of a major sporting event that required proof of vaccination. Only nurses with two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine could attend.

“This will create a global, digital infrastructure that will retain our personal information and this will introduce surveillance like we’ve never seen before,” Cavoukian said.

Manitoba is offering immunization cards for people who are fully vaccinated, meanwhile Saskatchewan has said it will not be asking its residents for proof of vaccination.

“Whether you’re vaccinated [or] I’m vaccinated, that is health information and health information is private,” said Kerry Bowman, a professor of bioethics and global health at the University of Toronto.

Bowman said if vaccine passports “can be avoided, they should be avoided.”

However, a May survey by Leger found the majority of Canadians are in favour of tracking proof of vaccination. 

More than 35 per cent of Canadians have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Pandemics come and go, but experts worry the tracking of public health information could be here to stay.