B.C.'s vaccine card system takes effect, cards now required to access some businesses, events
People 12 and over must currently show proof of at least 1 dose of vaccine
Two hours into the breakfast rush on Monday, the Jam Cafe in Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood was humming with what appeared to be business as usual. Tables were full, as were seats at the bar.
The confrontation staff feared might come on Monday, the first day of B.C.'s COVID-19 vaccine card system, which was introduced by the province to curtail cases and hospitalizations in the fourth wave of the pandemic, didn't seem to materialize.
"So far, pretty good," owner Mike Deas-Dawlish told CBC. He said there was a little bit of "nervous energy" when staff came to work today because they weren't sure how people would react. "But so far, I can only say it's been very positive. People have been great, they've been very supportive."
"We've actually had a few comments that it's nice to see the pass program in and this is the first time they've been out in a year."
As of Monday, anyone aged 12 and over who wants to access a range of non-essential indoor settings in the province must show proof of at least one dose of vaccine, with a second shot required by Oct. 24.
The digital or paper vaccine card is required at settings such as ticketed sports events, concerts, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, casinos, gyms and movie theatres. Businesses will need to check cards before allowing customers entry.
Deas-Dawlish was personally checking cards on Monday. He said the restaurant had only had "one upset person," but the rest showed their pass without issue — including tourists from six provinces other than B.C. who seemed, "oddly enough," more prepared than some locals.
"People have been great," he said. "They actually feel bad for us having to police this at the door."
B.C. is not requiring cards at grocery and liquor stores, pharmacies, fast-food restaurants, salons, hotels, banks, retail stores, food banks or shelters.
Showing proof of vaccination is also not required to vote in the federal election.
The immunization record card British Columbians received when they got their shot will be accepted as temporary proof of vaccination until Sept. 26, along with government-issued identification. The rule was made "to give everyone time to get their vaccine card," according to the province.
Business community express concern
Some in the business community are worried would-be patrons upset about the vaccine card could threaten the safety of staff.
"That interaction can be pretty uncomfortable for the person who is doing it, especially because people really feel — just talking in general — they don't need to have to do it," said Brian D'Souza, who co-owns the management company that runs The Wolf & Hound pub in Vancouver.
WATCH | B.C.'s COVID-19 vaccine card system takes effect:
An app that verifies the digital vaccine cards is available for business owners. Aimee Handerson, co-owner of Denman Athletics fitness centre, said she's concerned about verifying paper vaccine cards since they can't be scanned with the app.
She said the verification process could mean some businesses will need extra staff to help.
"I do feel for them … but it has to be done," Handerson told CBC on Monday.
System will run until Jan. 31, 2022
Critics of the program have decried the lack of exemptions for those who face legitimate barriers to getting a vaccine or proof of immunization — like people with complex medical needs or people without ID, which could include women fleeing violence, those who are homeless and undocumented migrants.
Public health officials said adjustments to the program are not out of the question, but aren't guaranteed either.
"It is possible that there could be exceptions introduced," said Devon Greyson, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia's School of Population and Public Health.
"However, we also have to remember this is a temporary measure during an active outbreak. For example, when we have a measles outbreak in a school, unvaccinated children are generally asked to stay home from school both for their own health and to protect vulnerable members of the community … This is a similar policy, it's just that we haven't used it in the general population of adults before."
B.C. officials have said the system will be in place until Jan. 31, 2022, but could be extended.
The most recent update from the B.C. government showed almost 79 per cent of eligible residents over the age of 12 had received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, while more than 86 per cent had received at least one shot.
There were 5,850 active COVID-19 infections across the province on Friday, the last day for which figures were available.
Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba have also introduced vaccine card programs.
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With files from CBC Radio-Canada, CBC's The Early Edition and The Canadian Press