Vaccine QR codes coming to Nunavut this month
Ministers talk mandating shots for travel, GN employees and booster shots
Nunavummiut who have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will get QR codes to prove it in a matter of weeks if all goes as planned.
Health Minister Lorne Kusugak made the announcement in the legislative assembly on Thursday, in response to a question from Adam Arreak Lightstone, the MLA for Iqaluit-Manirajak.
In an interview on Friday, Kusugak said the codes will replace the current method to prove vaccination, which is a letter from the chief public health officer.
The codes can be scanned from a mobile device or on paper, he said, adding personal identification, like a drivers licence, might need to be shown to accompany the code.
“It’ll be specific to you as an individual, you won’t be able to give it to your unvaccinated cousin, for example,” said Kusugak.
Nunavummiut will be able to use their code to travel back into Nunavut from other provinces or territories.
They will also allow people to enter businesses like restaurants, for example, in jurisdictions that require them.
British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec have introduced QR codes, and Nunavik followed Quebec’s lead last week.
The Health Department is not currently requiring proof of vaccination for people to enter private businesses or government buildings yet, but that could change.
“If all hell breaks loose and in November [for example], we’re saying in order to go for dinner or to a movie you need to prove vaccination, then those might come in handy at that time,” he said.
The logistics of rolling out the QR codes are still being worked out, but Kusugak said for now, all Nunavummiut need to do is get double vaccinated.
Kusugak maintained that QR codes will not be a “vaccine passport,” although that term is commonly used to describe similar proofs of vaccination.
It won’t allow for international travel, for example, which will depend on directions from the federal government.
Some jurisdictions in Canada are asking residents to get booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine — a third dose — but Kusugak said in the legislature on Thursday this isn’t the case in Nunavut for now.
“We are very closely monitoring what Canada is doing in terms of requiring booster shots,” he said.
In August, the federal government announced anyone travelling or working on a plane or train in Canada will need to prove they are fully vaccinated.
Other vaccination concerns brought up
On Thursday, Gjoa Haven MLA Tony Akoak asked Transportation Minister David Akeeagok whether the GN was consulted in this decision, since Nunavummiut rely on planes for travel between communities, to get medical care and to receive essential items.
Akeeagok said the GN was not consulted, but is asking the federal government what the new rule means for Nunavummiut.
“If they’re going to enact that in October, we need to make sure there are answers,” he said. “We need to know immediately.”
The federal government also announced last month all federal public service employees must be vaccinated to return to in-person work.
Baker Lake MLA Craig Simailak asked Akeeagok, who is also the minister for human resources, whether this would be implemented for GN workers, specifically for front-line health-care staff and school employees.
Akeeagok said the department is consulting health experts to see whether this would be feasible or necessary to protect the health of the broader public.
“I don’t have a firm answer today,” he said, adding the department does not currently track how many employees are vaccinated.
As of Friday, 72 per cent of Nunavut’s eligible population has now received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the GN.