Requiring proof of vaccination for entry into another country is not a new idea. There are regulations that need to be followed to set up a “vaccine passport” in relation to international travel (International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005))
At present the World Health Organization does not recommend vaccine passports for international travel, but they are working on a standard Smart Vaccination Certificate technical specification and standards to allow for harmonised processes to include COVID-19 vaccines into an updated version of the IHR (2005)
Countries around the world are beginning to put vaccine passports into place for international travel, as well as in some countries within country travel and access to services or businesses including Israel, France, Italy, Denmark, and the EU
The Canadian Federal government is supportive of a vaccine passport for international travel but recognize the issuing of vaccine passports will need to be province led
As of May 13, 2021, the province of Quebec has begun issuing a downloadable QR code that individual can keep on their smart phone.
As of June 9, 2021, the Federal government of Canada discussed easing restrictions for fully vaccinated Canadian citizens returning to the country
Ethical considerations in the use of vaccine passports include equitable access to vaccination (domestically and internationally), access to technology (eg. Smartphone passports), marginalization, or stigmatization especially among historically racialized groups, and socially isolated populations
Legal considerations include
o Clarifying who has the legal authority to require proof of vaccination,
o Ensuring that if new legislation is created and implemented it is in line with all pre-existing legislation (Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Human Rights Codes, privacy legislation, employment legislation),
o Ensuring that, if created by the government, there is coordination of the Provincial and Federal governments for international travel with respect to jurisdictional overlap, security of information, fraud
Health care facilities should be able to legally enact vaccination policies for patient-facing employees so long as they allow for exemptions due to medical inability or bona fide religious, or conscientious beliefs
Six in ten Canadians (61%) expect vaccine passports to be widely used in Canada by the end of 2021, the same proportion (61%) of Canadians also agreed that only vaccinated people should be allowed to engage in events involving larger crowds such as public transit, air travel, or attending cultural and sports events
Lashta E, von Tigerstrom B, Reeder B, Groot G; Miller, L; Mueller, M. What are the ethical/legal aspects of vaccine requirements? 2021 Jun 21, Document no.: EOC210503 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2021. 25 p. (CEST rapid review report).
The group designated in Saskatchewan as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) is a heterogenous clinical population with factors that impair their immune response to differing degrees.
Very Limited evidence is currently available to assess the immune response following vaccination is selected clinical populations; no evidence is available to assess vaccine efficacy or effectiveness in these populations. The clinical relevance of measured immune response with respect to protection from disease is still uncertain.
In considering the immune response of the CEV population, it is recommended that the absolute difference in immune response between 1 and 2 doses be considered, as it is possible some patient groups will have lowered protection regardless of vaccine strategy.
In terms of clinical subgroups:
oOrgan transplantation recipients on immunosuppressive medication: solid organ transplant recipients receiving anti-metabolite maintenance immunosuppression therapy were less likely to develop an antibody response to an mRNA vaccine, compared to those receiving other types of therapies (37% vs 63%). In a study of 242 kidney transplant recipients on immunosuppressive therapy only 10.8% became seropositive at 28 days after a single dose of mRNA vaccine.
oCancer: A study of 151 elderly patients with solid and hematological malignancies and 54 healthy controls who received one or two doses of BNT162b2 (Pfizer-BioNTech) vaccine shows approximately 39% of solid cancer patients, 13% of hematological cancer patients, and 97% of healthy controls (p<0.0001) developed anti-S IgG 21 days following a single dose vaccine. However, response in solid cancer patients increased to 95% within 2 weeks of the second dose at 21 days.
oOther immunocompromising conditions (e.g., auto-immune disorders and therapy): some level of immunity is generated with vaccination; however, what this means clinically is unknown. It seems that ensuring the dosing is properly timed around biologic therapy is important.
Azizian, A; Lee, S; Shumilak, G; Groot, G; Reeder, B; Miller, L; Howell-Spooner, B. What are the risks or benefits of extended intervals between doses of COVID-19 vaccines compared to recommended dosing in extremely vulnerable populations? 2021 Apr 20, Document no.: EOC210302 RR. In: COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Reviews [Internet]. SK: SK COVID Evidence Support Team, c2021. 15 p. (CEST rapid review report).