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

Robert Dale Stanton of Clinton was last heard from on Jan. 9, and police are asking for the public’s assistance in locating him. (Photo credit: RCMP)
Police ask for help in locating missing Clinton man

Robert Dale Stanton was last heard from on Jan. 9 and is believed to be in the Clinton/70 Mile area

Williams Lake is beginning to freeze over and with temperatures expected to remain below zero beginning Tuesday evening the ice may get thick enough for residents to recreate. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake could freeze enough for outdoor recreation activities

Overnight lows anticipated to dip below -13C beginning Wednesday

From the peak of Mica Mountain in the scenic Cariboo Mountain Range, which has a view of the distant mountains in the Clearwater area, including Raft and Trophy mountains.
Teen snowmobiler says South Cariboo SAR ‘real heroes’

Youth built a snow cave after getting separated from his friends, family

Laura Ball (from left), Simone Groundwater and Steve Carpenter curling during the final bonspiel of the 2020 season, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. With uncertainty regarding what the future holds surrounding gatherings and organized sporting events, the Williams Lake Curling Club has made the decision to cancel the rest of its 2020/21 season. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake Curling Club ends season amid pandemic uncertainty

WLCC will now look to the resumption of curling in the fall

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

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

A pinniped was attacked by an unseen predator off the shores of Dallas Road Monday night. (Courtesy of Steffani Cameron)
VIDEO: Seal hunting, not being hunted in video shot off Victoria waterfront

Victoria woman captures footage of pinniped activity off Dallas Road

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

Canada’s pitch to the Biden team has framed Keystone XL as a more environmentally friendly project than original

The British Columbia Hotel Association (BCHA) sent out a sharply worded release late last week, in which it noted that the Tourism Industry Association of BC recently obtained a ‘legal opinion’ on the matter (Alex Passini photo)
Hotel associations push back against any potential ban on inter-provincial, non-essential travel restrictions

B.C. Premier John Horgan is seeking legal advice on banning non-essential travel

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
COVID rapid tests in long-term care key during vaccine rollout: B.C. care providers

‘Getting kits into the hands of care providers should be a top priority,’ says former Health Minister

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. turns to second doses of COVID-19 vaccine as supplies slow

Pfizer shipments down until February, to be made up in March

B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training announced funding to train community mental health workers at four B.C. post-secondary institutions. (Stock photo)
B.C. funding training of mental health workers at four post-secondary institutions

Provincial government says pandemic has intensified need for mental health supports

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
No Pfizer vaccines arriving in Canada next week; feds still expect 4M doses by end of March

More cases of U.K. variant, South African variant found in Canada

Most Read