As New Brunswick's proof-of-vaccine mandate comes into effect Wednesday, experts say medical exemptions are rare because there's little to no reason people physically can't get vaccinated.
Last week, the province announced it will be mandating people to show proof of vaccination to access non-essential indoor facilities such as gyms, restaurants and movie theatres. The new rules comes as New Brunswick is in the midst of historically high COVID-19 infection numbers and multiple cases in schools, including student-to-student spread.
On Monday, the province also announced the return of mandatory masks in public spaces.
What are the rules?
Restaurants and businesses will be in charge of checking people's government-issued IDs and cross referencing them with a proof of vaccination before they allow customers in. Only people aged 12 and over must show vaccination proof.
The proof can be either an original vaccine record or a copy, or a letter downloaded from MyHealthNB website.
For people who don't have government-issued picture ID such as a driver's licence, a Medicare card works, the province says.
If businesses don't comply with checking vaccine records, they could be fined. If people don't comply with the rules, or falsify their record, they could be fined as well. The fines range between $172.50 to $772.50.
'But I have a medical exemption'
According to the province and the College of Physicians and Surgeons, simply saying this doesn't make it so.
The province requires a signed letter from a healthcare provider certifying that the medical exemption exists.
To do so, healthcare providers have to have been satisfied that the following has been met before they sign the letter:
The patient has had a "severe allergic reaction" to a previous dose of a COVID vaccine.
An allergist has tested and proven the patient has a severe allergy to any component of COVID-19 vaccine.
"Medical exemptions should be rare and exceptional," the province says in its guidance to healthcare providers.
Dr. Ed Schollenberg, registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, said previous negative reactions to another vaccine is not enough of a reason.
"Vaccines are all very different and made in different ways," he said. "People will think that they may be allergic to all of the vaccines, when it turns out not to be true. And what they're calling allergy may not be allergies, but there's at least a test for that."
Schollenberg said the college has told doctors "they should not write a letter of exemption for vaccines unless there's some real clear way that it's not because the patients ... don't want the vaccine."
He said pregnancy has also been debunked as a reason to not get the vaccine, as it's safe for pregnant people.
Public Health said it's also possible for people to get a temporary exemption, but still under strict and rare conditions. The temporary exemptions can apply to:
1. People who have experienced a thrombosis after venous or arterial thrombosis with thrombocytopenia, leaky capillary syndrome, myocarditis or pericarditis after a first dose of an mRNA vaccine. These people should not receive any further doses of COVID-19 vaccines until investigation is completed by a specialist.
2. People having "immune modulating" therapies that would alter the timing of their COVID-19 immunization.
What if I don't have the original or a photo of my vaccination proof, or a MyHealthNB account?
The province has begun giving out MyHealthNB registration codes at first and second-dose appointments as well as when someone gets a COVID test.
If people have lost their registration code before logging in, or never got one, they can book an appointment specifically to get a registration code here.
New Brunswick is in the process of developing a QR code to streamline this process.