Dr. Theresa Tam
Chief Public Health Officer
Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)
130 Colonnade Rd
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K9
Dear Dr. Tam,
As President of the Canadian Snowbird Association (CSA), a non-profit advocacy organization with more than 115,000 members across Canada, I am writing to request that the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) revises its guidance on quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated Canadian residents returning to Canada from the United States on the basis that these individuals do not pose a risk of significant harm to public health.
To provide context, the Canadian “snowbirds” who are currently planning their return back home to Canada from the United States have received both doses of a Health Canada-approved vaccine, primarily the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. Now that these individuals have been fully inoculated against COVID-19, and have exceeded the two-week period following their second dose, it is appropriate to review and revise the current quarantine framework.
These Canadian residents are returning to Canada after visiting our largest trading partner, a neighbour with whom we share an unprotected border, and with whom we have critical tax treaties and trade agreements. They have been fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved, distributed and promoted by Health Canada that was administered by a trusted entity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a country that has a health-care system which is one of the most developed in the world. These individuals are making Canada safer, not more at risk, and should be recognized and accepted as such when they cross the border.
Under the current framework, Canadian residents travelling back to Canada from the United States by air are subject to a mandatory hotel stopover requirement until their arrive test is returned negative, at which time they are required to quarantine at home for 14 days. Canadian residents re-entering Canada from the United States at a land crossing are required to quarantine at home for a 14-day period, provided their arrival and at-home molecular test are negative.
At this time, the quarantine requirements are equally applied to both those who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 and those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. We understand that the PHAC is currently in the process of evaluating when Canada can allow fully vaccinated travellers to enter Canada. We urge the PHAC, following the most up-to-date scientific information available, to revise these quarantine measures and take vaccination status into account when developing your updated policies.
The latest scientific research demonstrates that the chances of fully vaccinated individuals spreading COVID-19, also known as “breakthrough infections,” are extremely low.1 By following the science, the PHAC should update their guidance and provide quarantine exemptions for Canadian residents who can prove through official means, such as a COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that they have been fully inoculated against COVID-19.
Subsection 2.1(1) of the Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Quarantine, Isolation and Other Obligations) states that “every person must, when entering Canada by land, provide to the Minister of Health, screening officer or quarantine officer, as the case may be, evidence of a COVID-19 molecular test indicating that they received either a negative result for a COVID-19 molecular test that was performed in the United States…” Since the results of a molecular COVID-19 test from an accredited facility in the U.S. is permitted for entry into Canada, it only makes sense that vaccination certification provided by the CDC in the United States also be approved for re-entry purposes.
As numerous outbreaks of COVID-19 continue to plague the hotel quarantine system, it is time to provide an exemption for fully vaccinated Canadian residents inoculated in the U.S. who are re-entering Canada by air. Treating vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers in the same manner is not only counterproductive, it is not informed by the latest science.
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revised their recommendations regarding fully vaccinated travellers, advising that these individuals no longer need to self-quarantine in the United States following international travel. Canada should follow suit and exempt all Canadian residents who are returning home from the United States fully vaccinated against COVID-19 from the mandatory quarantine period.
For the reasons we outline, we request that you please exercise your discretion under the Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Quarantine, Isolation and Other Obligations) as amended by P.C. 2021-0313 (version of April 21, 2021), and particularly s. 27 of Table 1 of Schedule 2, which allows to exempt from quarantine:
“A person or the class of persons that the person is in whom the Chief Public Health Officer determines to not pose a risk of significant harm to public health and the person complies with any conditions imposed on them by the Chief Public Health Officer to minimize the risk of introduction or spread of COVID-19.”
There is no convincing scientific evidence that persons who meet the condition of demonstrating full vaccination at least two weeks prior to arrival in Canada “pose a risk of significant harm to public health” or present a “risk of introduction or spread of COVID-19.” There is accordingly not a sound basis for subjecting them to any of the quarantine requirements, including the requirement to stay in a government-approved hotel. We request that you exercise your discretion within seven (7) business days of receiving this letter and look forward to your response.
As discussions between the Canadian federal government and the Biden administration continue regarding the development of a plan to safely reopen the border between our two countries, updating Canada’s guidance regarding fully vaccinated individuals re-entering Canada from the United States will be a crucial component. We believe that addressing these measures and making clear distinctions in guidance between vaccinated and unvaccinated persons can also assist in combating vaccine hesitancy, as tangible benchmarks will act as an incentive for individuals to become vaccinated against COVID-19.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Canadian Snowbird Association