Millions of Canadians may face harsher restrictions when travelling overseas or on cruise ships, depending on the COVID-19 vaccine course they received.
This is because not every country has approved exactly the same COVID-19 vaccine dose courses as Canada. It means that while some Canadians are fully vaccinated here at home, they are not considered to be fully vaccinated in other places.
Here's what you need to know.
The COVISHIELD vaccine
The second dose of the #CovidVaccine helps to provide maximum protection, so it’s important to complete your full v… https://t.co/oHxys4R5lz— Health Canada and PHAC (@Health Canada and PHAC) 1625410906.0
According to the government's latest data, 81,028 Canadians have received at least one dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), which is known as COVISHIELD.
Although COVISHIELD has been given the go-ahead for use in Canada, it hasn't been approved in some other countries.
Some places in Europe, for example, have approved Vaxzevria (the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine manufactured in Europe) but don't currently recognize COVISHIELD. This includes countries like Italy, Portugal and Poland, among others.
Canadians who've received the COVISHIELD vaccine aren't considered to be "fully vaccinated" in these regions, so they're unable to take advantage of privileges offered to fully vaccinated travellers, like skipping quarantine.
However, a report from BBC News says that more and more countries are beginning to add COVISHIELD to their accepted vaccine list. This includes vacation hotspots like Spain, Greece and France.
Mix & match vaccines
Per the latest official data, as many as 3,139,559 Canadians have received mixed doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
While COVID-19 vaccine mixing has been given the go-ahead in Canada, it hasn't been approved by health officials in all countries. This means that, like COVISHIELD, Canadians who received mixed doses do not qualify as "fully vaccinated" in some countries and on a number of cruise ships, too.
For example, according to reports, Trinidad and Tobago does not recognize travellers with mixed doses (other than AstraZeneca and Pfizer) to skip COVID-19 travel measures. International cruise ships like Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, and Norwegian Cruise Line have similar policies in place.
Barbados previously did not consider travellers who got a mix of COVID-19 vaccines to be fully vaccinated, although the country later updated its policies.
The U.S. doesn't currently approve of mixing vaccines, either. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spokesperson told CBC News, "COVID-19 vaccines are not interchangeable." It added that mixed mRNA doses, however, will be accepted in "exceptional situations," such as if the first dose vaccine became unavailable.
It's not clear what this could mean for Canadian travellers crossing the land border when it reopens, as there could be complications if the U.S. were to impose a vaccination requirement.
So, what happens next?
Justin Trudeau previously made it clear that the federal government will "work with the international community to make sure that people who are fully vaccinated in ways that Canadians recognize as safe and effective are also recognized around the world."
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc made a similar statement last week, telling reporters that "there may be revisions provided by health authorities around the world with respect to these vaccine regimes."
Ontario officials have also called on the feds to work alongside the World Health Organization to update its guidance so that both COVISHIELD and mixed doses are recognized as valid on "any certificate or passport."
Health Canada has a robust website with all the latest information on COVID-19 vaccines and can answer any questions you may have.