One Week Before Policy Starts, Ontario Government Announces Guidelines for Vax Certificates

This time next week will be the last day you can go inside many places without being asked for proof of vaccination. The Government of Ontario’s vaccine certification effort goes into effect a week from Wednesday, and, just in time, we now have the regulations and guidance that will guide the program. The ball is now in the court of local businesses and organizations, not to mention all of us, to make it work.

To recap, earlier this month Premier Doug Ford and company announced in a press conference that starting on September 22 you will need to show proof of vaccination in select businesses and public spaces if you want to enter. That includes meeting and event spaces like banquet halls and conference/convention centres, sports and fitness facilities, sporting events, casinos, bingo halls, concert and performance venues, music festivals, cinemas, racing venues, and adult entertainment establishments. You will also need to show proof of vaccination for indoor dining at bars and restaurants, as well as for nightclubs both indoors and outdoors.

Until a QR code is released sometime on or before October 22, residents will have to use either the paper receipts they were given they received their vaccine shots, or a copy of the receipt downloaded from the provincial booking portal that can either be printed off, or stored on your phone.

In the guidelines, an individual will be considered fully vaccinated if they have received two shots of any Health Canada approved vaccine, or three doses of a vaccine not approved by Health Canada, all received 14 days in advance of being asked to provide the proof of vaccination. Workers like contractors, repair workers, delivery workers, students, volunteers, and inspectors who are on site to work are exempt, and so is anyone using a washroom, accessing an outdoor area that requires the use of an indoor passage, or if you’re paying for an order or purchasing admission to an outdoor venue.

The proof of vaccination guidelines and restrictions will be amended as a new section under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act.

“As we continue our last mile push to increase vaccination rates, requiring proof of immunization in select settings will encourage even more Ontarians to receive the vaccine and stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Minister of Health Christine Elliott in a statement. “If you haven’t received your first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, please sign up today.”

So all’s well, right? Guelph MPP and Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner is not so sure. In his own statement, Schreiner said that while he was pleased with the announcement of guidelines for the certification plan, there are still a lot of unanswered questions, especially around the topic of enforcement.

“Based on the announcement today, it’s on small businesses to accurately cross-reference vaccine records, ID and doctor’s notes until the QR code becomes available on October 22nd,” Schreiner said. “Doug Ford has once again left small businesses out to dry as he’s done throughout this pandemic.”

Schreiner suggested that the Ontario government should make more funding available so that small businesses have the infrastructure and staffing to administer the certification program right, or perhaps we should phrase that, as right as it’s going to get.

“Ford’s certificate is not nearly comprehensive enough and is full of inconsistencies, exceptions and loopholes,” Schreiner added. “I’m calling on Doug Ford to provide small businesses with the necessary clarity and funding support so they can stay open and stay safe. We can’t afford another lockdown.”

If you need help accessing your vaccine receipts, call the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900.

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