Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today his government is working with the U.S. and other international partners to ensure that AstraZeneca vaccine recipients face few barriers when they travel abroad.
Trudeau’s commitment comes at a time when some U.S. venues are already suggesting they will only allow people who’ve been fully vaccinated with a United States Food and Drug Administration-approved product — the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines — to attend certain events unencumbered.
While AstraZeneca shots are made at some U.S. facilities, the FDA has never approved it for use in the American marketplace.
Some private entities, like Broadway shows and TV production studios, have signalled they will keep AstraZeneca recipients out.
One B.C. mayor was surprised to learn he couldn’t attend a performance of Springsteen on Broadway in New York City because the venue operator, Jujamcyn Theaters, is limiting attendance to those who’ve had the mRNA shots or a shot of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Right now, the U.S. government isn’t requiring proof of vaccination to travel across its border.
U.S.-bound air travellers, including those who are fully vaccinated, are required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, or recovery from COVID-19 in the past three months, before they board a flight.
Health Canada maintains the AstraZeneca shot is safe and effective, but the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) said Thursday that the mRNA products from Pfizer and Moderna are “preferred” and people should opt for one of those shots for their second dose.
Canada working to get U.S. ‘on the same page’ — Trudeau
Trudeau — who received the AstraZeneca vaccine himself — said discussions with other countries on how they will treat those who’ve had a dose of that product are still ongoing.
“We will definitely make sure that people who got one or two AstraZeneca doses will not be disadvantaged when they want to travel,” he said in French.
“We hope to be able to resolve those issues in the coming weeks in time for bringing in loosened restrictions around travel. The U.S. hasn’t said yet what their criteria will be. We’re working with them to get on the same page.”
WATCH: Trudeau says he’s working with the U.S. on limiting travel barriers for AZ recipients
For now, most foreign travellers will be kept out of Canada — the government extended the Canada-U.S. border closure Friday until July 21 at the earliest — because not enough people here are fully vaccinated, Trudeau said.
Canada is maintaining its prohibition on most U.S. travellers, including those who are fully vaccinated, because these arrivals could act as COVID-19 vectors, spreading the virus to communities that are not yet sufficiently covered.
“We have to hit our targets of 75 per cent vaccinated with a first dose and at least 20 per cent vaccinated with a second dose before we can start loosening things up,” Trudeau said.
“Even a fully vaccinated individual can pass on COVID-19 to someone who is not vaccinated and that means we have to really make sure that not only people who are fully vaccinated can travel, but that the communities to which they will return are not at risk.”
To ease future international travel, Canada is working on a vaccine passport program, he said.
Canadians and permanent residents will soon be able to upload a copy of their vaccine certificates to the ArriveCAN app, which will allow them to bypass mandatory hotel quarantine when they return. All returning travellers must still self-isolate for 14 days.
In the “medium-term,” Trudeau said, there will be a more formal federal program tied to provincial health records which will give border guards access to vaccination records. Canada wants to harmonize this program with other countries to ease foreign travel.
WATCH: Dr. Theresa Tam discusses AstraZeneca vaccine and travel to the U.S.