Vaccine passports, both domestic and international, might be the travel and tourism sector’s ticket to a revival. Anthony Okolie speaks with Sohaib Shahid, Senior Economist, TD Bank, about the benefits and drawbacks for countries that adopt a vaccine passport policy.
Well, Anthony, the pandemic has devastated the travel and tourism sector, and these vaccine passports might be their ticket to a revival. So if you look at who will benefit the most, it will benefit those countries that are highly reliant on tourism. And so countries in the southern periphery of Europe. So Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, these countries. So we can divide vaccine passports into two groups, domestic passports, which we use to access domestic activities, domestic events such as sporting events or restaurants. But the second category is international vaccine passports. And and this is for cross-border travel between countries. And these international passports will have some ramifications for Canada US relations because of how many people cross the border each day between these two countries.
And what's been the experience from other countries using these passports, and I want to start with Israel because they've been certainly far ahead in their vaccination program. What are your thoughts there?
Sure. Before answering that question, I think we need to first acknowledge that Israel has been one of the most successful countries when it comes to vaccination and vaccine administration. This successful vaccine administration has allowed them to go forward and try out vaccine passports. So when the vaccine passport first came out in Israel, they were used for both domestic purposes and international purposes. But things have improved drastically in Israel recently and since 1st June, Israel's vaccine passports are only being used for cross-border travel and not to access domestic activities.
And what about the EU, what are you seeing there in terms of the vaccine passports?
So in the EU with the vaccine, passports will be used at the EU border and anyone who is vaccinated or has had a negative test or has recovered from the pandemic will be eligible to get the vaccine passport. And anyone who has received a vaccine within a two week time frame before traveling to the EU and has used a vaccine that is approved by the EU, can easily travel there and regardless of their country of origin. One important thing to keep in mind with the EU is that they're giving a lot of leeway to individual member states in order to regulate domestic access to domestic activities. This would mean that different countries would have different policies when it comes to accessing restaurants, stadiums, theaters and so on. And this may, might make things complicated and uncertain.
I'm glad you talked about those complications, because one of the things I want to talk about, what are some of the drawbacks of these passports?
Vaccine passports like vaccines would have their own side effects, and it will inevitably lead to an increase in the pandemic induced inequalities that you're seeing. So, for example, if you look at vaccine administration across the world, especially in advanced economies, you see that a lot of disparity between along income lines, along race lines. If you take the example of Canada, you see the vaccine takeup has been lower among visible minorities. It's also been lower among people living in low income neighborhoods and also in rural areas. And even globally, we will see a bigger gap between advanced economies and emerging markets and therefore a bigger gap between the global rich and the global poor.
OK, so given the backdrop of these realities that you talk about, the gaps even here in Canada, where do we stand? What is kind of stand on a vaccine passport and what can we learn from experience from other countries?
In Canada, there is no formal guidance yet on vaccine passports, but the federal government has backed them. The situation is more complicated at provincial level. So, for example, Quebec is already giving out a vaccine passport proof to those who receive the vaccine. But Alberta and British Columbia are against vaccine passports. On the ground that we're seeing that almost 80 percent of Canadians support the idea of a vaccine passport for cross-border travel. But only fifty five percent of them supported to access domestic activities. Now, going forward, any policy that makes vaccine passports necessary for to access domestic activities or for cross-border travel should account for the low income and the visible minorities.
Sohaib, thank you very much for your insights.