Newfoundland and Labrador will follow the lead of Quebec within the coming weeks and implement a vaccine passport system that allows non-essential businesses in the province to admit or deny entry based on a person's vaccination status.
Premier Andrew Furey made the announcement Tuesday at a scheduled COVID-19 update in St. John’s.
The province has been slow to adopt the idea, based largely on the relatively high local vaccination rate and low number of COVID-19 cases.
“After doing a jurisdictional scan, we have come back with a reasonable alternative for our province, and that is adapting something similar to what’s happening in Quebec,” Furey said. “The Quebec model will be introduced here within the upcoming weeks to a month.”
Unlike in Quebec, which continues to count hundreds of new cases daily, Furey said the system in this province will only be one “tool in the toolbox” of measures to combat spread of the coronavirus.
The Quebec system, which took effect Sept. 1, uses a QR code that can be displayed on a smart device or shown in print form.
Businesses and other venues scan the code, and the patron’s name appears on the scanning device, as well as their vaccination status indicated by the colour green for adequately protected and red for not protected.
An Internet connection is not required.
Health Minister Dr. John Haggie said exemptions for medical reasons will not be disclosed and will be treated as vaccinated..
He said the College of Physicians and Surgeons is devising guidelines that will set out what constitutes a medical exemption.
A portal will be available online on Friday, Sept. 9, for those who were vaccinated outside the province to get a provincial record.
Applicants will need a valid MCP card and the record from the other provider. The record will take about two weeks to process.
Furey said the system is needed to keep the economy going in any region of the province should a significant resurgence of the coronavirus occur.
“That is an important step to ensure that people who do have the vaccine and have done their part will not be penalized should certain outbreaks occur across our province,” he said.
Furey said he hopes it will nudge those who haven’t done so to get vaccinated.
“This is not a decision that we take lightly, and it’s something certainly that in the balance of freedoms, we’d certainly put time restrictions on. But it will allow — should another wave occur in certain areas around the province that may have lower vaccination rates — the economy, the businesses to stay open and, frankly, not penalize those who made the right choice, the educated choice, to get a vaccine.”
Furey implored those who haven’t done so to get the shot.
“I know there are some people out there who are still skeptical about the vaccine. They think that there may be problems, or maybe fake news,” he said. “Well, let me ask you one simple question: how many people do you know with smallpox? I can tell you right now, the answer is — not only for you but for every person around the world — no one. Because vaccines work.”
Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram