Province to launch enhanced vaccine certificate and verification app
TORONTO, ON, September 1, 2021 — Although last month, Premier Doug Ford and Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said government would not require residents to show proof of vaccination, the province of Ontario in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, is now saying people will be required to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of their vaccination status to access certain businesses and settings starting September 22, 2021. The province says requiring proof of vaccination in these settings reduces risk and is an important step to encourage every last eligible Ontarian to get their shot, which is critical to protecting the province’s hospital capacity, while also supporting businesses with the tools they need to keep customers safe, stay open and minimize disruptions.
“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 Premier Ford. “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.”
Premier Ford said at a news conference today, “We need to protect our hospitals; we need to avoid lockdowns at all costs. We want our kids in schools, and our businesses to stay open.”
Premier Ford suggested that the Feds haven’t stepped up, so the province did. “For the past three months, along with Canada’s other Premiers I have called on the federal government to develop a national vaccine passport. We’ve seen this national leadership around the world who have implemented their own national vaccine certificate programs because it’s clear that a national system is far better than a patchwork of certificates across every single province and territory in the country, especially as more Canadians travel abroad, said Ford. “But Justin Trudeau has told us that they will not be rolling out a national vaccine passport while their election is ongoing. We can’t wait any longer we must take immediate action and we will.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, while campaigning in Mississauga last week, said Ford needs to “step up” with a proof-of-vaccination program. He said the Premier needs to listen to public health officials and that the federal Liberal government is committed to providing provinces implementing vaccination programs with $1 billion in funding.
Additionally, a few weeks ago Toronto’s Mayor John Tory accurately pointed out that the province has access to all of the vaccine records, and it makes sense for them to be rolling out the proof of vaccination program. “Who else is going to provide the proof of vaccination? The province has all of the records in their system of exactly who got vaccinated, where and when and how many times,” said Tory.
Several provinces already have proof of vaccination programs in place, including British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec.
Where will you be required to show proof of full vaccination?
As of September 22, 2021, Ontarians will need to be fully vaccinated (two doses plus 14 days) and provide their proof of vaccination by visiting the provincial website along with photo ID to access certain public settings and facilities (If you have a red and white health card, you can call the Provincial Vaccine Booking Line at 1-833-943-3900). This approach focuses on higher-risk indoor public settings where face coverings cannot always be worn and includes:
- Restaurants and bars (excluding outdoor patios, as well as 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 sport;
- 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).
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. In addition, these requirements will not apply to settings where people receive medical care, food from grocery stores, medical supplies and the like. Aligned with public health measures currently in place, indoor masking policies will continue to remain in place.
“We know vaccines provide the best protection against COVID-19 and the Delta variant,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “To protect the health and well-being of Ontarians, our government will offer one more tool to encourage even more Ontarians to receive the vaccine and provide further protection to fully vaccinated Ontarians as they safely enjoy activities with their loved ones and support their local businesses.”
Individuals who cannot receive the vaccine due to medical exemptions will be permitted entry with 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.
For the period between September 22 and October 12, 2021, it is intended that people attending wedding or funeral receptions at meeting or event spaces will be able to provide a negative rapid antigen COVID-19 test from 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.
Ontarians currently have access to a paper or PDF vaccine receipt that includes all relevant information to prove that they are fully vaccinated. As of September 22, Ontarians will be required to show their vaccine receipt when entering designated settings along with another piece of photo identification, such as a driver’s licence or health card. This is similar initial implementation approach announced in British Columbia.
Ontario will also introduce an enhanced digital vaccine receipt that features a QR code, which is safe, more secure and with you wherever you go. This digital vaccine receipt can be kept on a phone and easily used to show that you’ve been vaccinated if you need to. 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 your privacy.
As the 2021-22 school year begins, it is critical to keep Ontario schools safe and students learning in-person. The province will work with trusted 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.”
“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.”
- Individuals can provide 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.
- Ontarians who received their first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine out of province should contact their local public health unit to record their information and receive proper documentation.
- The province will continue to work with the federal government to ensure the integration and interoperability with a national vaccine passport for the purposes of international travel.
- The government is continuing its last mile strategy to reach eligible individuals who have yet to receive a first or second dose.
- To protect vulnerable patients and staff in settings where the risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 and the Delta variant is higher, the government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health is pausing the province’s exit from the Roadmap to Reopen and providing third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to vulnerable populations. The CMOH is also making COVID-19 vaccination policies mandatory in higher-risk settings.
- COVID-19 vaccines are currently available at over 3,150 locations across the province, including more than 2,500 pharmacies and more than 650 mass immunization clinics, hospitals, primary care settings and pop up and mobile clinics.
- A key component of Ontario’s last mile strategy is getting vaccines to people, wherever they are located. If you need your first or second shot, keep an eye out for our new GO-VAXX mobile clinics.