Here’s full breakdown of Ontario’s new COVID-19 vaccine passport system

Ontario Premier Doug Ford today announced his government’s plans to implement a COVID-19 vaccine passport certification program in Ontario, effective Sept. 22.

Proof of vaccination will be required to access non-essential businesses across the province, such as indoor bars and restaurants, 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—except youth recreational sports), sporting events, casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments, concerts, music festivals, theatres and cinemas, strip clubs, bathhouses and sex clubs and racing venues (e.g. horse racing).

The certificate will not be needed for churches or other places of worship, retail shopping, medical care, medical supplies or outdoor patios.

The certificate, similar to other provincial vaccine passports, will have to be used alongside a government-issued ID (for example, a driver’s license or health card). Ontarians can print copies of their vaccination receipts on Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccination booking page.

Individuals who cannot receive the vaccine due to medical exemptions will be permitted entry into non-essential businesses with a doctor’s note, at least until recognized medical exemptions can be integrated as part of a digital vaccine certificate.

Children 11 and younger, who are unable to be vaccinated, will be exempted from these requirements.

Between September 22 and October 12, 2021—people attending wedding or funeral receptions at meeting or event spaces could provide a negative rapid antigen COVID-19 test (from no more than 48 hours before the event) as an alternative to proof of vaccination. However, these rapid antigen tests would have to be purchased privately (and that could be quite pricey).

Beginning October 22, an app will be available that will combine one’s ID with the certificate, with information embedded into a personalized QR code; this would essentially allow vaccinated Ontarians to use their smartphones to show their vaccine status, without sharing any personal health information. Ford’s government is also creating an app for businesses to verify the QR codes (this would also be ready in October).

“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,” Ford said at a press conference at Queens Park on Wednesday afternoon, alongside Health Minister Christine Elliott and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore. “If you haven’t received your first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, please do so today.”

The news sparked divisive debates across social media, with some even worried that this won’t work for individuals who don’t have access to smartphones or who, aren’t tech-friendly.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto and Toronto General Hospital, noted that vaccine passports will neither end the pandemic, nor create perfectly safe indoor spaces; rather, “They are an added layer of protection to help create safer indoor spaces”.

An Ipsos poll published in May found that a majority of Canadians are in support of the use of vaccine passports for a variety of indoor and outdoor activities.

Ontario reported 656 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, a 25 per cent increase from the 525 cases recorded on Tuesday. Out of today’s cases, 504 cases are in individuals who are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status and 152 are in fully vaccinated individuals.

The province also reported 13 more deaths, although six of the deaths occurred more than two months ago and were just updated based on data cleaning.

Out of the new cases, 158 were recorded in Toronto, 76 in York Region, 73 in Hamilton, 59 in Peel Region, 31 in Durham and 26 in Waterloo.

The total number of active COVID-19 cases in the province now sits at 566,206, with 550,829 cases resolved. The total death toll has reached 9,516.

There are 339 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, including 163 total patients in ICU due to COVID-related critical illness and 96 of those patients on a ventilator.

As of Wednesday morning, 20,792,657 doses of approved COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Ontario.

Out of the administered doses, 77 per cent of people 12 and over in Ontario are fully vaccinated and almost 84 per cent of people 12 and over in Ontario have received at least one dose.

Click here for more COVID-19 Ontario updates.

Article exclusive to TRNTO