A woman makes her way through Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, December 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

A woman makes her way through Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, December 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

There may be restrictions on unvaccinated people in the future, but is that ethical?

Countries have that right to restrict whoever comes in, but what about the rules within each country?

The COVID-19 vaccine may not be mandatory for Canadians, but those who choose to opt out of getting the shot could face restrictions down the road.

Some experts expect airlines to require proof of vaccination from their customers in the near future, with Australia’s Qantas already suggesting that’s in their plans, and things like concerts and sporting events could follow suit.

While some individuals may take that as an invasion of privacy or erosion of civil liberties, Juliet Guichon, an associate professor of law and ethics at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, says preventing another global pandemic would outweigh those concerns.

“I don’t think a pandemic is about fairness,” Guichon said. “So for people to say that, it’s a bit irrelevant.”

Ontario’s health minister Christine Elliott said last week that certain restrictions on travel or access to communal spaces like movie theatres could come into effect for unvaccinated individuals in the future, but when those potential limitations would happen wasn’t clear.

The vaccine rollout began Monday in Ontario and Quebec with the initial doses going to health care workers and nursing home residents. Distribution is expected to take months to reach the majority of Canadians, but the federal government has suggested it hopes to inoculate most people by fall 2021.

Andrew Sneddon, a philosophy professor and ethics expert with the University of Ottawa, says any restrictions would need to be thought out based on feasibility.

If an airline says you can’t fly without proof of inoculation, the vaccine should be readily available to the public before those restrictions take effect, he said.

“There’s a saying in ethics that ought implies can — if something ought to be the case, it has to be possible,” Sneddon said. “So if we’re going to be told: ‘you should have a vaccine and you should have documentation,’ this only makes sense if we can do that.”

Sneddon says he expects potential restrictions to be met with some resentment from individuals worried about privacy implications.

While most medical information is supposed to be kept private, Sneddon added that the contagious nature of COVID-19 means the same rules don’t necessarily apply.

“I’m not sure (privacy) is a very persuasive concern,” he said. “For one thing, we can distinguish between widespread violations of privacy, like if all of our health information was being revealed, and very specific disclosures, and that’s what this would be.”

Dr. Anita Ho, a bioethicist and health services researcher at UBC, says not every corner of the world will approach COVID vaccination the same way.

In places like New Zealand, which did well in fending off the virus, getting a vaccine may not be high on peoples’ list of priorities, she said. Other nations may have limited supply of vaccine or require people pay for the shot themselves, putting a financial barrier on immunization.

All of that impacts the ethics of potential mobility restrictions, she said. And logistics of how we will prove our immunization status will need to be worked out.

“Are we going to require people provide paper verification or electronic verification? That’s another important question,” she said. “We need to ensure there are applications that are privacy compliant … and that also do not reveal more than what they need to know.”

Guichon says it makes sense for airlines to impose travel restrictions on unvaccinated passengers, because it could put potential customers at ease.

But is it legal to implement such restrictions?

Since Canadians are granted mobility rights in the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Guichon says that could be seen as an infringement. Someone with a disability that prevented them from getting the COVID vaccine could make that case, she added, but the rest of us couldn’t.

Travel could be further impacted if entire countries decide to ban those who haven’t been inoculated from crossing into their borders.

Dr. Ross Upshur, an infectious disease expert at the University of Toronto, says that’s not a new concept, and certain countries still request a yellow fever certificate before entering. He expects a number of nations to apply similar rules to COVID-19.

“Countries have that right to restrict whoever comes in. I think what we’re going to see, at least in the short term, is that if you want to travel outside of the country, you’re going to have to demonstrate some sort of proof immunization,” he said.

“As long as there are active cases … and movement between countries, there’s always the possibility of re-introduction of the pandemic.”

Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19 cases in B.C. for the week of April 25 to May 1. Illustration: BC Centre for Disease Control
Nelson surpasses 100 COVID-19 cases in 2021

The West Kootenays meanwhile saw numbers drop at the end of April

Safeway will no longer be offering single-use plastic bags. File photo
Castlegar Safeway says goodbye to plastic bags

The store no longer provides single-use plastic bags

Rossland City Council issued a press release critical of Mayor Kathy Moore's travel to the U.S.
Rossland council addresses issue of mayor’s travel to U.S.

Prior to her trip, some councillors and staff expressed deep concerns about her plans

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
57 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

Thirty people in the region are in hospital, 16 of whom are in intensive care

Photo: File
Fruitvale councillor responds to online criticism

“The bullying has to stop. People want to be heard, everybody wants to be heard” - Lindsay Kenny

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O���Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

B.C. average home price and sales level to 2023, showing steep drop in sales expected next year. (Central 1)
Forecast calls for B.C. home sales to ‘explode,’ then drop off

Average price to rise another 10% in 2021, credit unions say

Two Pileated Woodpeckers sharing the bounty! Kathleen Opal photo
Urban wildlife Part XI: The Kootenay birds (and others) of 2021

The work of photographers in the Kootenay Advertiser throughout 2021. Part XI. With links to Parts I-X

Members of Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. (File photo)
B.C.-wide #DayOfMusic to feature 100-plus free virtual concerts May 15

‘Our colleagues across the province have figured out new ways to perform and connect,’ VSO boss says

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Two passengers were recently fined thousands of dollars after they faked their pre-flight COVID-19 test results. (Paul Clarke/Black Press)
2 passengers in Canada fined thousands for faking pre-flight COVID-19 tests

The government issued a warning Thursday to others thinking of doing the same – do it and you’ll be ordered to pay

(File)
With revenge porn on the rise in 2021, B.C. seeks feedback for new legislation

New legislation could help victims take down images and receive compensation

Some of the funding will provide more EV charging stations, such as this one at Rogers Pass. Kootenay Rockies Tourism photo.
StrongerBC provides funding for tourism projects in Kootenay Rockies region

A number of initiatives to enhance tourism are underway across the Kootenay Rockies

(Kamloops This Week file photo)
Federal police unit takes over probe of B.C. regional district’s spending

Financial Integrity Sensitive Investigations Unit is now reviewing the case

Most Read