British Columbia has officially launched the B.C. vaccine card, a digital or printed document residents in the province will need to access non-essential businesses, services and activities, such as restaurants, movie theatres and gyms.
Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry explained details of the vaccine card program at a news conference on Tuesday. The move follows the introduction of vaccine passports in other provinces as a way to encourage vaccination and slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Health officials announced that the new portal will allow people to securely obtain their proof of a COVID-19 vaccination in either digital or hard-copy format.
"We have made the B.C. vaccine card easy for people to get and easy for businesses to check at a glance," Horgan said. "The card is a significant step in getting our economy running on all cylinders and returning to social events safely with the confidence that those around us are also fully vaccinated."
Anyone who wants access to the following places and activities after Sept. 13 will need to show proof of vaccination:
Restaurants, pubs, bars and lounges (indoor and outdoor dining).
Organized indoor events with 50 or more people (e.g., wedding receptions, parties, conferences, workshops, etc.).
Discretionary organized indoor group recreational classes and activities.
Indoor concerts, theatre, dance and symphony events.
Fitness centres, gyms, indoor sports (excluding youth recreational sport).
Indoor group exercise activities.
Nightclubs, casinos, movie theatres.
Indoor ticketed sporting events.
From Sept. 13 until Oct. 24, partially and fully vaccinated people will be able to enter these settings and events.
Starting on Oct. 24, people will need to be fully vaccinated with two doses at least seven days before access will be granted.
Watch | B.C.'s premier says vaccine cards are not about restricting people's rights:
Government aims 'to keep people safe'
The cards will not be required at grocery stores and other retail settings that haven't seen high levels of transmission, according to officials. They also won't be necessary to access health services, enter a place of worship or vote in the upcoming federal election.
"We have put the vaccine card in place to keep businesses open and to keep people working and to keep people safe," Henry told the news conference.
She said while vaccination is a choice, the vaccine card will help minimize disruption for everyone. Unvaccinated people will still be able to order takeout food and participate in outdoor activities, she added.
Henry said the mandate is an enforceable public health order. Depending on the violation, fines can range from $230 to $575 for individuals and $2,300 for event organizers or owners/operators of locations.
The vaccine card uses a QR code, a scannable bar code technology that's readable by a digital device such as a smartphone. The QR card can be shown directly from a phone or can be printed.
Officials say there will be a transition period until Sept. 26 for vaccinated people to obtain their card. During this time, the paper record provided at vaccine clinics will be an another acceptable form of proof.
There is an exemption for children under the age of 12 but not for people who aren't able to get the vaccine for health or religious reasons.
The vaccine card is not required for employees of non-essential businesses and services.
The provincial government was originally slated to move into Stage 4 of its reopening plan on Tuesday, but Henry said this will be delayed due to an increase in COVID-19 cases.
How to use B.C.'s vaccine card
When you arrive at a business or event that requires proof of vaccination, health officials advise having your digital or paper vaccine card ready.
You will be asked to display your vaccine card, along with a piece of valid government photo ID for people 19 and older. People between the ages of 12 and 18 do not need to show ID. Families and caregivers can carry a copy of a loved one's vaccine card with them or save multiple vaccine cards to their mobile device.
Health officials say businesses will soon be able to download the B.C. vaccine card verifier app, which will allow them to verify the vaccine card by scanning the QR code. Alternatively, they can visually verify it.
People from other Canadian provinces or territories must show a provincially recognized vaccine record and valid government photo ID. International visitors will be required to show their passport and the proof of vaccination they used to enter Canada.
Technical difficulties with website
A soft launch of the province's vaccine card website earlier Tuesday ran into technical difficulties after the site was overwhelmed by people trying to download their card.
The government quietly launched the portal a few hours ahead of the official news conference to test capacity and troubleshoot any glitches that might arise.
The Health Gateway website prompts users to enter their personal health number, date of birth and the date of their vaccination — either dose one or dose two — in order to download their vaccine card.
The Health Ministry said people should not post their QR codes online due to privacy concerns.
The president of the Canadian Police Association said his group will be paying close attention to the province's plans for enforcement.
Tom Stamatakis has said it is unrealistic for Horgan to suggest police could respond every time a patron refuses to provide vaccination status because that would stretch resources and potentially affect responses to other calls.
The latest data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control shows the province has 5,872 active cases of COVID-19. As of Tuesday, 85.1 per cent of people 12 years and older in B.C. have received a COVID-19 vaccine.