Over the past month, British Columbia, Ontario, and Alberta have all implemented a COVID-19 vaccine card system. The provinces require individuals to provide proof of vaccination to access certain indoor public spaces.
These requirements come at a time when many regions, domestic and international, are experiencing a fourth wave of the pandemic.
Vaccine cards will hopefully encourage more people to get vaccinated. This may lead to reduced case numbers and a continuation on the road to normal.
To highlight the different vaccine card systems and clear up confusion, this article looks at the proof of vaccine requirements in all the three provinces.
By order of B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer, proof of vaccination is now required to access some events, services, and businesses as of September 13, 2021.
What documents do customers need to show to enter these businesses in BC?
Currently, customers can enter these spaces with:
- A valid government photo ID (required only for those 19 years+; can be a driver’s license, BC Services Card, passport, or a photo ID issued by another province or territory
- Proof of one dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine
By October 24, 2021, both doses will be required for entry.
Which businesses must comply with the proof of vaccine mandate?
This mandate applies, but is not limited to:
- Restaurants and bars (both indoor and patio dining)
- Casinos and movie theatres
Do employees also have to show proof of vaccination to be allowed entry?
No. While customers and clients of these businesses have to show proof of vaccination to enter, employees of these businesses do not.
Employers must have their own system in place to handle the vaccination of their staff. They must ensure that health and safety procedures are being followed.
Is proof of vaccination also required to access essential services in BC?
No. Proof of vaccination is not required for essential businesses such as grocery stores, personal care services and local public transportation, or for children under 12 years.
When will this vaccine card system expire?
This requirement is in place until January 31, 2022. It could also be extended.
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health will require residents to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of their vaccination to access certain businesses and settings.
When does proof of vaccination start in Ontario?
From September 22, 2021, Ontarians will need to have both doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine (two doses plus 14 days).
Which businesses must comply with the proof of vaccine mandate?
Ontario residents will need to provide their proof of vaccination along with a photo ID (such as a driver’s license or health card) to access some businesses such as:
- Restaurants and bars (excluding outdoor patios)
- Meeting and event spaces
- Theatres and cinemas
Which businesses are exempt from the proof of vaccine mandate?
Similar to B.C., these requirements do not apply to essential services, children under 12 years, or employees of businesses that require proof of vaccination.
Individuals who cannot get vaccinated due to medical exemptions will be permitted entry into all businesses with a doctor’s note until recognized medical exemptions can be integrated as part of a digital vaccine certificate.
When will this vaccine certificate requirement end?
The Ontario government has not noted an expiration date for the proof of vaccine requirement.
Most recently, the government of Alberta introduced proof of vaccination requirements that are a bit complex.
When does the proof of vaccination system start in Alberta?
Beginning September 20, 2021, certain events and businesses (including sports, fitness, recreation and performance activities, restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs and nightclubs, and retail and entertainment facilities) must implement one of the following options:
- The Restrictions Exemption Program (REP), which requires customers to show proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID-19 test result, or
- Follow new capacity and operating restrictions such as no indoor dining at restaurants and bars, limited capacity for outdoor dining and reduced capacity at retail and entertainment venues.
What rules will I need to follow if I choose the Restrictions Exemption Program?
If a business chooses to abide by the first option, the REP (a.k.a. vaccine card program), they are able to continue full operations with no capacity or operational restrictions. They must, however, require customers to provide one of the following:
- Proof of vaccination: Partial vaccination (one dose) will be accepted between September 20, 2021, and October 25, 2021, if it was received two weeks before time of service
- Full vaccination (two doses) will be required after October 25, 2021
- Documentation of a medical exemption
- Proof of a privately paid negative PCR or rapid test within 72 hours of service (tests from Alberta Health Services or Alberta Precision Laboratories are not allowed)
What if I choose the second option?
If a business chooses to abide by the second option, they will be required to implement new capacity restrictions and COVID-19 safety measures on either September 16 or September 20, 2021, depending on what the business is.
What businesses are exempt from the proof of vaccine mandate?
The proof of vaccination requirement does not apply to:
- Businesses or entities that need to be accessed for daily living
- Employees of businesses participating in the REP
- Children under 12 years
When will the proof of vaccine program end?
The government of Alberta has not given an expiration date for the proof of vaccine program or additional restrictions for businesses who choose to not implement the REP.
To recap, all three provinces have some sort of vaccine card or vaccine passport system in place.
Alberta’s proof of vaccine program is a little different. It is optional for businesses to implement. A negative test result can be provided instead of proof of vaccination.
But all programs are the same in that they are placing the health and safety of the public before the needs and wants of the individual.
If there is anything these new programs have shown us, it is that access to non-essential businesses is a privilege, not a right.
If individuals want to continue to engage in pre-pandemic activities such as going for dinner, seeing a show, or attending a fitness class, they must actively take steps to ensure the safety and wellbeing of everyone around them.