Alberta health minister defends decision against COVID-19 vaccine passport amid repeated questioning

Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro is continuing to defend the UCP’s decision not to implement a so-called vaccine passport and related restrictions, amid surging fourth wave COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Shandro has been asked repeatedly, specifically in the last two days, why the Alberta government has no current plans to introduce a proof of vaccination program.

READ MORE: COVID-19 ICU admissions slam Alberta hospitals; Hinshaw says ‘the move to endemic was too early’

During a news conference on Friday in Rocky Mountain House, Shandro was questioned again about whether Alberta will have a system similar to the one coming to B.C., where residents have proof of vaccination on either an app or a scannable card, and along with it, province-wide restrictions will be in place preventing unvaccinated people from entering some settings, like non-essential businesses.

“The answer is, is that right now, the first work to be done is for us to make sure that Albertans have their vaccine records in the palm of their hand, for us to come out like other provinces are doing,” he said.

“And I expected to be next week for the principal card, (the) same as B.C., which we’ll also be launching next week.”

When asked why Alberta wasn’t also introducing comparable restrictions along with the vaccine card, Shandro said the government is prioritizing ensuring that businesses or workplaces that want to implement their own restrictions, can do so quickly through a secure QR code.

“When it comes to the question of whether it’s going to be government mandated, we have — as we’ve communicated before, premier said before — we are right now enabling those workplaces and businesses to be able to make those decisions,” he said.

We are going to continue to look at the evidence on how that affects our vaccine uptake. If there is evidence… as we see the vaccine passports, as they are enabled in other provinces, I’m happy to look at that information.

“But at this time, we have made the decision for these decisions (to) be led by those workplaces and by those businesses.”

The evidence is out there. People are out there dying right now, Minister. They are dying. Time for action, that’s what Albertans are saying. So why are you delaying this?” CBC provincial affairs reporter Michelle Bellefontaine is heard saying before the press secretary again tries to move on to the next question.

Shandro insisted on answering the question, however, and stated he’s also heard these concerns from other Albertans.

“It’s good feedback for us to get, I appreciate that feedback,” he said.

“As I made the commitment that we are going to continue to look at that evidence, and we will continue to work with our public health officials on the question, so thank you.”

He was then asked about evidence from other provinces, like Ontario, B.C. and Manitoba, where the introduction proof of vaccination programs led to an uptick in vaccinations.

At that point, the minister’s press secretary attempted to stop the reporter and move on to the next question in the queue.

When the reporter said, “Just one more question, I drove all the way to ask him,” the press secretary could again be heard saying to move on to “the next question please.”