Use of vax certificate launched in Ontario

·6 min read

Premier Doug Ford announced in a news conference on Sept. 1, that the province is launching an enhanced vaccine certificate and verification app, to be implemented beginning Sept. 22, with a second stage planned for Oct. 22.

As of Sept. 22, Ontarians will need to be fully vaccinated (two doses and a waiting period of 14 days after the last vaccination) and provide proof of vaccination, along with photo identification, such as a driver’s license or health card, to access certain public settings and facilities. These settings are described as higher-risk indoor public sites, where face coverings cannot always be worn and include:

Restaurants and bars, excluding outdoor patios, delivery and takeout

Nightclubs, including outdoor areas of the establishment

Meeting and event spaces, such as banquet halls and conference/convention centres

Facilities used for sports and fitness activities and personal fitness training, such as gyms, fitness and recreational facilities with the exception of youth recreational sports

Sporting events

Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments

Concerts, music festivals, theatres and cinemas

Strip clubs, bathhouses and sex clubs

Racing venues (e.g., horse racing)

The vaccine certificate system does not apply to employees in these settings.

These mandatory requirements would not apply to outdoor settings where the risk of transmission is lower, including patios, with the exception of outdoor nightclub spaces, given the risk associated with the setting.

Essential retail, like grocery stores, are exempt, as are places of worship and hair salons, along with other personal care businesses. Deputy minister Christine Elliot said regardless of their vaccine status, "at no time" will people be denied food from grocery stores or medical attention.

Ford said “enforcement will rely on bylaw officers, will be reasonable and will rely on individuals and businesses to do the right thing.”

Individuals can access their proof of immunization by downloading or printing their vaccine receipt from the provincial booking portal, or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Booking Line at 1-833-943-3900. If an Ontarian received their first of second dose out of the province, they should contact their public health unit to update their records and receive proper documentation.

Aligned with public health measures currently in place, indoor masking policies will continue to remain in place.

Ford said he and other premiers have asked the federal government to implement a nationwide passport, citing it would be better to have one passport rather than 10, but was told it wouldn’t happen during an election. Because of this, the province has decided to create their own.

He said this is a temporary tool, that “we won’t use a day longer that we have to.” The system is needed to keep hospitalization numbers down and avoid another lockdown.

Ford said Ontario is confronting its greatest enemy yet , the Delta variant, and we “find ourselves facing a fourth wave of COVID-19 as we enter the fall months and people return indoors.”

“As the world continues its fight against the Delta variant, our government will never waver in our commitment to do what’s necessary to keep people safe, protect our hospitals and minimize disruptions to businesses,” said the premier. “Based on the latest evidence and best advice, COVID-19 vaccine certificates give us the best chance to slow the spread of this virus while helping us to avoid further lockdowns. If you haven’t received your first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, please do so today.”

“We need to protect our hospitals,” said Ford. “We need to avoid lockdowns at all costs. We want our kids in schools and our businesses to stay open.”

Those with medical exemptions preventing them from getting the vaccine will be allowed entry if they can present a doctor’s note, until recognized medical exemptions can be integrated as part of a digital vaccine certificate. Children who are 11 years-of-age and younger and unable to be vaccinated, will also be exempted from these requirements.

From Sept. 22 - Oct. 12, people attending wedding or funeral receptions at meeting or event spaces should provide a negative rapid antigen COVID-19 test taken no more than 48 hours before the event, as an alternative to proof of vaccination. These rapid antigen tests would have to be privately purchased.

Ontario will develop and provide additional tools to improve user experience, efficiency and business supports in the coming weeks, including establishing alternative tools for people with no email, health card or ID. The government will work to support implementation of vaccine certificates for Indigenous communities whether or not they have opted to enter their data into COVaxON, while maintaining Indigenous data governance, control, access and possession principles.

On Oct. 22, Ontario will launch an enhanced digital vaccine receipt that will include a QR code. This receipt can be kept on a phone and used to show that you've been vaccinated when required. In addition, the province will launch a new app to make it easier and more convenient for businesses and organizations to read and verify that a digital vaccine receipt is valid, while protecting privacy.

“Combining the use of a QR code with a trusted, made in Ontario verifier app will help support the province’s health measures,” said Kaleed Rasheed, associate minister of digital government. “These tools will provide a simpler, faster, and better way to prove vaccination status that is both convenient and secure – while also supporting businesses with an easy validation process.”

COVaxON system to be used at Ontario schools

COVaxON is an electronic vaccination management system that was installed on the IPads seen at the vaccination clinics. The system is a repository for the data related to COVID-19 immunization administration: who, what, where, when, etc., for use by select (permission enabled) Ministry of Health, vaccination locations, public health and others administering vaccine or staffing support, as required. (source: Grey Bruce Public Health Unit)

The province is working with public health units to use the existing COVaxON system to safely and securely confirm the vaccination status of students. The province is committed to keeping parents informed about how their child’s COVID-19 vaccine information and enrollment data is being used to keep schools safe. This will equip local public health units with the information they need to ensure rapid case and contact management if required to limit disruptions in the event of cases or outbreaks and keep kids in class.

“We are already seeing a rise in the number of cases of COVD-19 as we head into the fall,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health. “As we enter the last mile push to increase vaccination rates, the introduction of a vaccine certificate is an important step to give people the tools to limit further spread of the virus so that we can ensure the safety of all Ontarians while keeping the province open and operational.”

Tammy Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent

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