Canada

Confused about proof-of-vaccination requirements for travel? Your questions answered

The federal government laid out its COVID-19 proof-of-vaccination mandate for domestic travel this week. But you still have questions. We answer them here.

The federal government's requirement for proof-of-vaccination to travel domestically starts Oct. 30

An individual is seen holding up an example of Quebec's proof-of-vaccination QR code. Beginning Oct. 30, Canadians will need to prove they are fully vaccinated to travel domestically. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)

This week, the federal government announced that as of Oct. 30, all travellers boarding a plane, train or marine vessel in Canada will need proof of full vaccination against COVID-19.

"Fully vaccinated" is defined as a full series of a Health Canada-approved vaccine, with the last dose having been administered at least 14 days prior to the day of travel. A combination of approved shots is also acceptable.

There will be a period of transition through November for people who are in the process of getting fully vaccinated, but eventually, to travel by air, rail or water in Canada, or from Canada to international destinations on Canadian airlines, full vaccination will be required.

That prompted some questions from you. 

Will the government allow a 3rd shot for those who have mixed vaccines so they can fulfil November travel plans?

For domestic travel, your two mixed doses of Health Canada-approved vaccines are fine and entirely acceptable. 

Travelling internationally is not as straightforward, as countries have their own specific rules with respect to entry, vaccination status and whether a quarantine is required.

Right now, the Canadian government still advises against any unessential travel outside of Canada. But many Canadians have travelled to the U.S., which sometime in November will have its own requirement for entrants to be fully vaccinated.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced late Friday that the United States will accept international visitors inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines authorized by U.S. regulators or the World Health Organization, which includes vaccines that were administered in Canada but not in the U.S., such as Oxford-AstraZeneca. 

While it's unclear whether that includes mixed doses, the CDC said it would release "additional guidance and information as the travel requirements are finalized."

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has not yet recommended a third shot simply for the ability of international travel. 

Passengers check their tickets at Vancouver International Airport. The new rules announced by the federal government this week mandate full vaccination for domestic travel by air, rail or marine vessel. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

But some provinces have moved ahead on that front. Saskatchewan, Alberta and Quebec announced in the summer that they would offer a third shot to people whose vaccines weren't recognized internationally.

This week, Manitoba announced it would also offer a 3rd shot of an mRNA vaccine to anyone who got a full mixed series, or two doses of AstraZeneca, or one dose of Janssen. 

"We don't recommend a booster shot for international travel," Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba's vaccine task force said during a briefing Wednesday. "What we did instead is just make a third dose available for travellers where they are not allowed to go to certain destinations because that destination doesn't recognize what they received here."

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said late last month that the government continues to engage with other countries about accepting a mixed vaccine dose; those talks are still ongoing.

It is up to any individual country to decide what qualifies as "fully vaccinated" when it comes to allowing foreigners to enter. 

"We've been presenting our data, for example, in the vaccine effectiveness of the mixed dose schedule such as AstraZeneca followed by mRNA vaccines," Tam said Sept. 24 in Ottawa.

She added that progress may be quicker when it comes to European countries because some of them have also used the mixed-dosing schedules. 

"But we still have to advise travellers that they must check in with the specific country requirements prior to travel because it is a bit of a varied landscape out there," she said.

Will the new rules mean that we won't need a negative COVID-19 test three days before a flight within Canada anymore?

There will be a short period of time when individuals who are in the process of being vaccinated will be able to travel domestically if they can show a negative COVID-19 molecular test within 72 hours of their travel date. 

But that period will end Nov. 30.

After that, showing a negative COVID-19 test to travel within Canada — rather than proof-of-vaccination — will no longer be an option.

"By the end of November, if you're 12 or older and want to fly or take the train, you'll have to be fully vaccinated as will staff," said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, during a briefing Wednesday on the new rules. "Testing will no longer be an option before boarding."

For international travel, the rules around pre-flight testing remain unchanged.

International travellers coming to Canada still need to show a negative molecular COVID-19 test that was done within 72 hours of their flight departure time. Rapid antigen tests are not accepted. 

WATCH | Justin Trudeau lays out the new proof-of-vaccination rules: 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces new vaccine mandate

12 months ago
Duration 1:48
Trudeau says the federal government is working with the provinces to create a standardized proof-of-vaccination system that can also be used for travel.

I got a vaccine not approved in Canada. Can I get another set of vaccines so I can travel? 

Eligibility for a new set of vaccines is at the discretion of each province or territory, as they are responsible for vaccine eligibility and distribution.

Many do currently offer an additional shot to individuals already vaccinated against COVID-19 with a vaccine not approved by Health Canada, including Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia.

It is recommended that anyone who received a COVID-19 vaccine not approved in Canada contact their local health authority for information about getting a Health Canada-approved vaccine. 

An example of Saskatchewan's new COVID-19 vaccination record with quick response (QR) code. Saskatchewan is one of four provinces currently offering a third vaccine shot for people who need it to travel internationally. (Matthew Howard/CBC)

What about people who have recovered from COVID? 

Recovery from COVID-19 is unlikely to get you an exemption from the need to be fully vaccinated to travel domestically. 

"For the vast, vast majority of people, the rules are very simple — to travel, you've got to be vaccinated," Trudeau said during the same briefing.

"If you haven't gotten your shots yet but want to travel this winter, let me be clear, there will only be a few extremely narrow exceptions, like a valid medical condition."

He said the government is working with Health Canada to define those exemptions, but warned they will be onerous to obtain. 

"Let me say that simply having a personal conviction that vaccines are bad will not be nearly enough to qualify for an exemption."

Right now, the government does not recognize travellers to Canada who have recovered from COVID-19 and had only one dose of a vaccine to be "fully vaccinated."

According to its information page on travel, "If you have recovered from COVID-19, you still need a full series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine or combination of accepted vaccines." 

WATCH | Are these new rules legal?

Are the government's new travel rules legal?

12 months ago
Duration 0:43
Treasury Board president Jean-Yves Duclos says the government examined the legality of imposing proof-of-vaccination requirements on domestic travellers and were advised that the mandate would stand up in court.

How long will these measures will be put in place? 

The government did not say. It will be up to the federal government to lift any national COVID-19 restrictions or regulations.

Clarifications

  • B.C. has been taken off the list of provinces that offer third doses of COVID-19 vaccines so people can travel. Third doses are not available to the general population for travel in the province.
    Oct 13, 2021 11:59 AM ET

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