Newmarket businesses and governments are navigating questions around vaccine verification as demands rise for a unified system.
Premier Doug Ford has said the province will not implement a vaccine verification system, even as its science advisory table says it will help strengthen reopenings and prevent more lockdowns. Some businesses have recently made headlines by requiring vaccination proof for employees and patrons, such as Toronto strip club Filmores Hotel.
Vaccine passports have been a hotly debated topic in Canada, as some other countries roll out systems for proof of immunization. Critics say they infringe on Canadians’ privacy and civil liberties.
Here's what you need to know about vaccine verification and receipts:
What can I use right now to prove that I have been vaccinated?
With no formal system in place, the provincial government has indicated you can use the receipts you receive after getting a first or second dose.
If you have lost or discarded your receipt, you can print one out at https://covid19.ontariohealth.ca/ by inputting your information. This requires a green OHIP card.
Those with a non-photo, red and white OHIP card must instead call the provincial booking line at 1-833-943-3900.
What if I got vaccinated outside of Ontario or Canada?
York Region Public Health maintains COVID-19 vaccination records for York Region residents who have been immunized outside of Ontario
Any resident who received their first and/or second COVID-19 vaccine dose outside of Ontario should complete the COVID-19 immunization outside of Ontario form. If you need assistance, contact Access York at 1-877-464-9675.
Where do I have to use this verification?
At present, there is no federal or provincial-level system for requiring vaccine verification. However, a business or workplace could decide to ask for this information. This receipt could be used as proof, absent any other system.
The information on the receipt is also stored in a digital provincial system called COVaxON. Administered by the Ontario Ministry of Health, the system tracks anyone who has received a vaccination within the province regardless of method. Anyone who received a vaccine from out of province can contact their local public health unit to be registered in the system.
What locations are asking for this?
At present, no known businesses in Newmarket have publicly stated they are requiring vaccinations for their stores. But some businesses in other communities, such as Filmores Hotel in Toronto, have asked for verification.
A website launched by a Toronto lawyer that listed Ontario businesses with fully vaccinated staff or vaccination policies quickly shut down Tuesday after he and the businesses were subjected to harassment.
Is vaccination verification something being considered locally?
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is advocating for a federal system of vaccine verification, to help with reopening and prevent any future lockdowns.
Newmarket Chamber of Commerce president Tracy Walter said the organization does not have a position on how such a system would be used.
A group of tech CEOs presented to the Newmarket Economic Development Advisory Committee in June to pitch the town as a place to pilot a digital-based verification system. Businesses were free to reach out individually, but no formal partnerships have been announced.
Could the vaccine receipt be used for international travel?
Canada does not have a COVID-19 travel passport, but being fully vaccinated can matter for travel.
International travellers are subject to a quarantine, but fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents are exempt as of July 5. They must have been fully vaccinated 14 days prior to arrival in Canada.
Information must be input into the online ArriveCAN system, including a photo or PDF file verifying your vaccination status. This can be an Ontario vaccination receipt.
What about domestic travel?
Domestic travel remains a provincial jurisdiction. Manitoba and the Atlantic provinces require visitors to quarantine, but exemptions exist based on vaccination status. The Ontario receipt can be used for this.
What are the legal implications of vaccine verification?
COVID-19 vaccine verification is largely untested legally. With no guiding legislation, an organizational policy could be challenged based on human rights or other grounds.