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Province unveils details of BC Vaccine Card Program

A week before the BC Vaccine Card program officially comes into effect, the province has launched its online system for British Columbians to sign up for and receive their digital proof of COVID vaccination.You can visit healthgateway.gov.bc.ca to download yours; you’ll need to first provide your personal health number, your date of birth, and the date of either your 1st or 2nd vaccine dose. You’ll then receive a personal vaccine card with a QR code that shows how many doses of the vaccine you’ve received.Proof of vaccination will be required to attend discretionary events like restaurants and pubs, fitness centres and gyms, indoor organized gatherings with 50 or more people in attendance, and indoor group fitness activities or other recreational classes. They will also be required for nightclubs, movie theatres, casinos, indoor ticketed sporting events, and indoor concerts, theatre, dance, and symphony events.Fast food restaurants, food courts, drive-thrus, and cafeterias are not included in the program.British Columbians will need to show their QR code—either digital or paper—along with photo ID before entering those events, and businesses will have access to a separate phone app that they can use to verify customers’ vaccination statuses.For the first 2 weeks of the program until Sept 26, you can also show a paper vaccine card that you may have received upon receiving a dose of the vaccine as a transition period while people wait to receive their official card. After that time, the BC Vaccine Card will be the only accepted form of proof.There is also a transition period to allow people who are in the process of getting vaccinated to enter businesses if they have had only 1 vaccine dose so far. For those people, the vaccine card will appear blue instead of green to reflect their vaccination status.People with 1 dose will be allowed to access the discretionary services until Oct 24. After that, only people who are fully vaccinated will be allowed to enter those businesses.Provincial health officer Dr Bonnie Henry called the QR code system “elegant and simple” in its ability to prevent fraud, given its instant connection to the provincial government’s vaccine registry. She said while people may have found paper vaccine cards easier to replicate, it’s still a small portion of people who are looking for ways around the system.Henry told reporters that businesses who have stated their opposition to the vaccine card are a loud minority and, in many cases, are not even businesses that would be affected by the proof of vaccination requirement.“If you’ve not yet been vaccinated, that is your choice. … Essential activities and services will remain open for you. Just as the case has been for the last 20 months, you will have alternatives to participate in the settings where proof of vaccination will be required,” Henry said.“In order, however, to minimize disruption for as many people as possible and make these discretionary events and activities as safe as possible, these are where proof of vaccines will be required.”She said the ultimate goal of the program is to eventually reduce restrictions on capacity at these discretionary events by ensuring that only people who are fully vaccinated are allowed inside.Premier John Horgan, meanwhile, said Tuesday that the announcement of the card had already had the effect of bumping up daily vaccination rates by more than 200% over the past 2 weeks. As of Tuesday afternoon, 85.1% of eligible British Columbians had received at least 1 vaccine dose.“We all have to unite once again, with a common purpose, to see the BC Vaccine Card as a way to get to those places where we want to be—at a sporting event, at the theatre, going out to a movie, having dinner with some friends,” Horgan said.“Large gatherings can take place with double vaccinations.”Horgan said the vaccine card program will not impede people from receiving basic government services or other essential services like grocery or retail stores if they haven’t been vaccinated. However, the vaccine card program does constitute a public health order and is enforceable by police and bylaw officers at places where proof of vaccination is required.