The leader of Newfoundland and Labrador's Official Opposition called on the government Wednesday to delay the COVID-19 vaccine passport until Dec. 17, the same deadline public servants have to get their shot, citing concerns from "thousands" of residents who still haven't received their second dose.
Beginning Oct. 22, the passport will be mandatory in order to participate in many aspects of public life in Newfoundland and Labrador. The passport can be accessed through a smartphone app called NLVaxPass or printed as a physical paper copy.
David Brazil said while he's in favour of the passport, he would like to see it delayed so those who recently got their first dose have time to get their second.
"We're bewildered to understand why you wouldn't give people the opportunity to actually do due diligence and do what's expected of them: get both the vaccines in a timely fashion so that they're fully vaccinated and can then participate in society," he said Wednesday.
Responding in question period, Health Minister John Haggie refused the request, pointing out the vaccine has been widely available since June.
"We have given ample warning and ample time and there are vacant appointments at vaccination clinics across the province. There's no excuse," Haggie said.
Haggie said the government has "encouraged," "educated" and "cajoled" people to get the vaccine.
Brazil said the government didn't allow enough time for people to get both doses between announcing and implementing the passport, and asked why public workers are being given a later deadline than other workers.
"It's unfortunate, but human nature; sometimes you put off stuff that you probably shouldn't have or you wait till the last minute or you realize there's a timeline attached to it."
Exemptions and backlogs
Brazil said he's also heard concerns from people who had adverse reactions to their first dose and would like the deadline extended because they're waiting to consult a doctor on whether they're eligible for a medical exemption.
"We thought it was a simple request. We thought it made sense. It came from constituents all over the province," he said.
People with medical exemptions can obtain a QR to access activities and services that require the passport.
So far, the only two medical exemptions to the vaccine passport are a severe allergy or anaphylactic reaction to the vaccine, or a diagnosed episode of myocarditis or pericarditis after getting an MRNA vaccine.
Brazil also pointed out that some residents are having difficulty accessing their vaccine records online and through the smartphone app.
Haggie said people who aren't able to access their record online or through the NLVaxPass app can show the paper immunization record they received at the time of their vaccination.
He acknowledged that there have been some issues with data input from vaccine clinics, but said they should be "fairly short term."
He said there is a "significant" number of people with expired MCP cards, which are needed to access the online records and use the smartphone app. He said the department has put extra resources toward renewing MCP cards but the paper immunization record will work in the meantime.
"There's a level of personal responsibility here," he said. "We are not intending to move the deadline."