Yukon government rolls out vaccine passports

Premier Sandy Silver announced Tuesday the territorial government has launched a vaccine credential for Yukoners looking to travel outside the territory.

Premier says certification will make travel easier, no plans for vaccine mandates in territory

Premier Sandy Silver speaks to reporters in Whitehorse in a March 2021 file photo. The Yukon released its vaccine certification system Tuesday. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)

The Yukon government is getting into the vaccine passport game.

Premier Sandy Silver announced Tuesday the government has launched a "vaccine credential" for Yukoners looking to travel outside the territory.

"We have an obligation to provide a certification that has less ability to be fraudulent, that is standardized right across Canada so it's recognized, and so that's what we've done," Silver said at a news conference Tuesday.

The service is available online, by phone and by mail. People who use the online service can get a PDF with their vaccine status immediately.

The government says the handwritten cards given out when Yukoners get vaccinated are good enough to travel on for now, but that could change.

Yukon government officials said the online system does not access Yukoners personal health information to generate the passport. It accesses a sub-section of people's health records in which there is only information about COVID-19 vaccinations.

The vaccination credential includes a person's name, their date of a birth, a QR code, the number and type of vaccinations received as well as the dates on which they were administered.

Officials said the QR code does not contain a person's health number or any other health information.

They also added the service is available to all Yukoners who have been vaccinated, including 11- to 17-year-olds.

Secure proof of vaccination is needed for Canadians returning from travel abroad and to access non-essential services in some places in Canada, Silver said. 

No vaccine mandate in Yukon

But Silver added that the vaccine credential won't be necessary inside the Yukon.

Silver said businesses asking for proof of vaccination will no longer have to rely on "the honour system," but he said the Yukon government has no plans to bring vaccine mandates to services, or for government staff.

Catherine Elliott, the territory's acting chief medical officer, said the Yukon's vaccine rate is so high that vaccine mandates aren't needed, though she said that could change in the event of a serious outbreak, particularly if the highly-contagious delta variant takes hold.

She said daily outbreaks in western Canada remain a concern.

Currently 83 per cent of people over 18 are vaccinated, just short of the government's goal of 85 per cent. But she warned that some communities, such as in southeast Yukon, still have low vaccination rates. So do young people: kids aged 12-17 are at 72 per cent, while young adults aged 18-29 are at 77 per cent.

"Young people need to roll up their sleeves," Elliott said.

"Vaccinated people are like a firebreak in a forest fire," she said, adding that vaccination is important even if some vaccinated people get infected.

She added the number of active cases in the Yukon remains at 22, unchanged since last Friday.