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Ontario's vaccine passport: What you need to know

A COVID-19 vaccine passport system kicks in Wednesday across Ontario, requiring people to show proof of vaccination for entry into many non-essential venues.

Proof of COVID-19 vaccination system takes effect Wednesday to enter restaurants, bars, gyms, cinemas

A patron leaves a fast-food restaurant in Toronto, past a sign displaying proof of vaccination information on Wednesday. Ontario's new vaccine passport system applies to the indoor areas of restaurants, bars, gyms, cinemas and many other venues. Provincial health ministry figures show more than 10.3 million people have had two doses of vaccine, which amounts to 79 per cent of the eligible population. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

A COVID-19 vaccine passport system kicks in Wednesday in Ontario, requiring people to show proof of vaccination for entry into thousands of non-essential venues across the province. 

Restaurants, bars, sports venues, gyms, theatres, cinemas and casinos are among the locations where staff must ask patrons to show certification that they received two doses of an approved vaccine at least two weeks before, along with identification that matches their vaccination document. 

Here's what you need to know about how Ontario's vaccine passport system will work. 

Proof of vaccination document

Ontarians can download their proof of vaccination from this provincial government website. You need your OHIP card to log in to the site. Once you download the certificate showing you've had two doses of vaccine, you can either print a hard copy or store the PDF on your phone. 

Vaccination receipts from jurisdictions outside Ontario are accepted, provided that the vaccine doses received meet the province's definition of fully vaccinated. If any of the doses received were not among Health Canada's four approved vaccines (Pfizer-BioNtech, Moderna, AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD or Janssen/Johnson & Johnson), Ontario requires two doses to be considered fully vaccinated, or a follow-up of one dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccine. 

Ontario's proof of vaccination receipt is valid whether it is printed on paper or downloaded on a phone. The name and birth date on the document must match what is on the person's identification, and to be considered fully vaccinated, the second dose of the vaccine must have been administered at least two weeks before. (Ontario Ministry of Health)

Identification

Along with the paper or digital copy of your vaccination certificate, you are required to show government-issued identification with your name and date of birth, matching what's on the proof-of-vaccination document. It does not have to be photo ID.

You can use your OHIP card as identification, although the venue staff do not have the right to demand to see your health card as part of your proof of vaccination.

Locations

You must show your identification and proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter the following locations: 

  • Indoor areas of restaurants and bars, as well as both indoor and outdoor areas of nightclubs.
  • Indoor areas of concert venues, theatres, cinemas, casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments.
  • Indoor areas of sport and recreational facilities, such as gyms, fitness centres, swimming pools, water parks and indoor spectator areas of sports venues. 
  • Indoor areas of meeting and event spaces, such as banquet halls, conference and convention centres.
  • Indoor areas of horse racing or car racing tracks.
  • Indoor areas of strip clubs, bathhouses and sex clubs.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford receives the AstraZeneca vaccine at a Toronto drug store on April 9. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Exceptions and exemptions

Children under 12 are not subject to Ontario's vaccine passport system, as they are currently not eligible for vaccination. 

To be exempt from Ontario's COVID-19 vaccination requirements, anyone age 12 and up must provide a written document from a physician or a nurse practitioner on official letterhead stating that there is a medical reason for the exemption.

Public health doctors have said medical exemptions are rare and are primarily limited to having a life-threatening allergy to an ingredient in the vaccine, or having had an adverse reaction to a first dose. 

There are also a few specific exceptions to the vaccination requirement for the venues listed above:

  • People entering the indoor area of a restaurant or bar only to get takeout, to pay or to use a washroom.
  • Kids under 18 entering a sports or recreational facility for active participation in an organized sport, such as a league or classes, including dance, martial arts or swimming.
  • People entering a meeting or event facility solely to attend a wedding ceremony or funeral service. The exception does not apply to a reception or social gathering associated with the wedding or funeral. However, until Oct. 13, a non-vaccinated person can attend such a social gathering by producing a negative COVID-19 test administered within the previous 48 hours.
Although Quebec has had its digital COVID-19 proof-of-vaccination system in place since Sept. 1, Ontario's won't be ready to launch until Oct. 22. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Digital vaccine passport: Oct. 22

Provincial officials say Ontario will move to a digital proof-of-vaccination system a month from now. People who've been vaccinated will be able to download a QR code to their phone, which can be read by a free smartphone app to be made available ahead of the Oct. 22 start date. 

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