Questions swirl in the Yukon legislature this week regarding the territorial government’s plan to verify whether some travelers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The territory’s privacy commissioner also steps in, saying the government must carefully follow the rules for handling medical records.
“People who are considering crossing the border are worried about the rules,” Yukon Party MP Brad Cathers told reporters. “They wonder if their health information is protected.”
On May 25, those who can prove that they are fully vaccinated will not need to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in the territory.
How travelers will prove this exactly, and by what means, are the concerns of the opposition bench.
Government officials said this week that if someone wants to avoid the period of self-isolation when they arrive in the Yukon, they will need to report having received two shots. In an effort to confirm whether someone has in fact been fully vaccinated, travelers will be required to sign a consent waiver so that the government can access their medical records.
The official opposition has asked for answers on how the government will ensure that information is protected.
Cathers said how the medical records would be handled remains uncertain and, with self-isolation restrictions easing within days, time is running out to clarify how they will be.
Health Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee said Yukoners need not worry – the government has it under control.
“We will do everything we can to make sure we can check vaccines in the least intrusive way and protect Yukoners,” she said. “The confidentiality of individual health records is absolutely paramount.”
Government must tread carefully: Privacy Commissioner
There is a specific law for the protection of the medical records of people in the territory. Rightly known as the Health Information Privacy and Management Act, this legislation puts checks and balances on the collection, use and disclosure of these documents.
The government needs to watch it closely, said Diane McLeod-McKay, Yukon Information and Privacy Commissioner.
“They have to make sure that they meet with these specific authorities and, of course, make sure that there is adequate security for all the information they collect,” she said.
Immunization records are provided to Yukoners who have been vaccinated. Earlier this week, McPhee told reporters there was a possibility people could use them as another layer of evidence.
But McLeod-McKay said those records are susceptible to fraud.
“It is not secure information,” she said. “That explains to me why they’re going for the medical record, because the medical record is the only thing they’re going to get that real proof.”
McLeod-Mckay said she had not been contacted by the Yukon government about its vaccine verification plans.
“If they want my help, I am more than happy to help them,” she said.
Yukon is ready to check travelers, but only Yukoners and residents of British Columbia
At a press conference on Wednesday, Premier Sandy Silver said the Yukon was ready to verify those returning to the Yukon or residents of British Columbia. The same is not true for checking travelers from across the country, he said.
“I think we have been very clear that proof is needed, we are very confident for Yukoners and we are very confident for the people of British Columbia and we will work on the details for all other regions.” , did he declare.
The development of a vaccine certificate, which in theory would allow smoother travel, is the subject of debate around the world.
McPhee said such a certificate, while being considered across the country, is still a distant prospect in the Yukon.