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Alberta to launch 'convenient' card with vaccination status, not to be considered a vaccine passport

EDMONTON -

A new card the provincial government will release to help Albertans show proof of their vaccination status is not to be considered a vaccine passport, it says.

The province is creating a “conveniently sized paper card” showing COVID-19 immunization records that Albertans will be able to access from the provincial health website, MyHealth Records.

The province aims to have the cards ready for download by mid-September.

It will be up to Albertans whether they use the card, by either printing or digitally saving it on a mobile device.

“We understand how important it is for Albertans to have appropriate access to their immunization records right now,” said Chris Bourdeau, spokesperson for Alberta Health, in an email to CTV News.

“In the meantime, Albertans are encouraged to review the policies of locations and businesses prior to their visit to confirm what forms of vaccination proof will be accepted,” Bourdeau said. “It is recommended that Albertans use the paper immunizations record they received at the time of their immunization as a back-up.”

Bourdeau said that any Albertan who did not receive a paper copy of their record of immunization or needs another one can request a copy from wherever they received their vaccine doses.

When asked by CTV News if the new paper or digital card offered by Alberta Health will constitute a vaccine passport or card, Bourdeau replied, "No." 

“This is the same information on vaccination that Albertans have been able to access for any immunization since before COVID-19, simply being made available in a more convenient form.

“The decision on whether and how to use their own personal health information is up to each Albertan, subject to any requirements set by businesses or other organizations.”

PASSPORT OPPOSITION CONTRIBUTING TO HESITANCY: HEALTH LAW EXPERT  

Health Minister Tyler Shandro reiterated on Thursday Alberta will not implement a vaccine passport. 

“To be clear, the Alberta government has not and will not mandate a so-called ‘vaccine passport’ for domestic use,” Shandro said in a series of tweets.

But his government's refusal to implement a passport muddies the waters and offloads responsibility to the private sector, one University of Calgary health law professor says. 

"When it's a government-driven initiative, they can think of it more holistically and they can think about things like: What form of vaccine proof is least able to (be?) forged? Is most secure? They can consider things like what medical exemptions should look like, how best to protect privacy. And they can make choices around what types of essential services shouldn't be the subject of a vaccine mandate, and which should," commented Lorian Hardcastle with the law faculty and Cumming School of Medicine.  

"Will the federal government accept your AHS printout as sufficient proof... or are they going to ask for access to those provincial records? In which case it will become a political battle between the two levels of government." 

Shandro directed anyone in search of proof of vaccine status to use the documents they received at their vaccine clinic or MyHealth Records. He said more than 800,000 Albertans have signed up for the service and the government was working to make it more accessible. 

Hardcastle considers his and the Alberta government's messaging about vaccine passports as a contributing factor to vaccine hesitancy. 

"We heard messaging around choice and around 'we will never mandate you to get vaccinated.' And that's political," she pointed out. 

"There was some messaging from the premier and he said that he was concerned vaccine passports would violate the spirit of the health information act, so it was sort of clear that he was walking a semantic line where he couldn't say it was illegal but sort of wanted to nod to those kinds of concerns."
In the days after B.C. announced its own vaccine passport program, it saw demand for vaccine appointments jump -- one day, by 200 per cent over the previous week. 

"I think the more that is inaccessible to them, the more likely they are to be vaccinated," Hardcastle said. 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Dan Grummett

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