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Ontario releases proof of COVID-19 vaccination regulations, expands third dose eligibility

Tuesday, September 14, 2021 @ 3:26 PM | By Amanda Jerome

On Sept. 14, the Ontario government released regulations and further guidance for businesses regarding the proof of vaccination policy which will be in force as of Sept. 22.

Kaleed Rasheed, associate minister of digital government, said in a press conference that he’s pleased to report that the government is “on track to release both our enhanced vaccine certificate with the QR code and the QR code verification app for businesses” by Oct. 22.

“When released, these will work as follows: for people, your vaccine certificate will have a QR code. That is your vaccination credential that you will provide when needed. For businesses, we are releasing a free app that you can download from Apple’s App Store or the Google Play App Store onto a Smart Phone and quickly and easily scan QR codes which will tell you if a person can enter your establishment,” he explained.

“We have chosen this approach for two reasons. First, a QR code that is your enhanced vaccine certificate will make it easier, more secure and convenient to show that you have been vaccinated when you need to. And second, our made in Ontario app will make it quicker and easier for businesses to confirm that a person’s vaccine certificate is valid,” he added.

“I want to be very clear,” Rasheed noted, “on October 22 you will have the choice to download the QR code enhanced vaccine certificate, or you can continue to use the print version.”

Rasheed explained that a person’s information “will never be stored” on the app and the app “will only show the minimum amount of information needed to confirm that an individual has been fully vaccinated.” He said the app will be released as “open-source software,” which is “transparent tech that can be continuously improved.”

He stressed that the government will release guidance to businesses on the use of the app ahead of Oct. 22.

According to a government release, the proof of vaccination policy has “resulted in a marked increase in vaccination rates.”

“Between September 1 and September 8, 2021, the seven-day average for first doses administered increased by more than 29 per cent, from over 11,400 doses to over 14,700 doses. During that time, more than 90,000 first doses and 102,000 second doses were administered in Ontario to individuals aged 18 to 59,” the release explained.

Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, stressed in a press conference that “those who are unvaccinated are 24 times more likely to be in a hospital than those that are fully vaccinated” and “they are 43 times more likely to be a patient in intensive care settings compared to those that are fully vaccinated.”

Moore also announced that Ontario is expanding eligibility of third doses of COVID-19 vaccines to “additional groups that face the highest risk of serious illness from the virus.”

According to a government release, the province will “begin offering third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to additional vulnerable populations:

  • those undergoing active treatment for solid tumours;
  • those who are in receipt of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T-cell;
  • those with moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (e.g., DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome);
  • stage 3 or advanced untreated HIV infection and those with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome; and
  • those undergoing active treatment with the following categories of immunosuppressive therapies: anti-B cell therapies (monoclonal antibodies targeting CD19, CD20 and CD22), high-dose systemic corticosteroids, alkylating agents, antimetabolites, or tumour-necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors and other biologic agents that are significantly immunosuppressive.”

“The locations and timing of third doses will vary by public health unit and high-risk population, based on local planning and considerations,” Moore explained.

The government release noted that “individuals in these groups can receive their third dose at a recommended interval of eight weeks following their second dose and will be contacted by their health-care provider such as their primary care provider, specialist, or their hospital specialty program when they are eligible to receive the vaccine.”

“The months ahead will be challenging,” stressed Moore. “COVID-19 is not going away and the risk it poses will continue throughout the fall and winter.”

“We’ve seen how the virus can change and it can spread. We need to be humble, resilient and adaptable,” he added.

In response to questions from the media about businesses which are refusing to comply with the vaccination policy, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott said the policy “is required and there will be bylaw enforcement officers” doing “a lot of the monitoring and making sure that businesses conform as we’re expecting individuals to conform to the requirements.”

Elliott also noted that if there are any businesses that “feel threatened” when refusing entry to an individual the government wants “them to call 911 as soon as possible to make sure that our police officers can be there to assist.”

The press pointed out that this could create a lot of 911 calls and asked the deputy premier if there will be additional funding to emergency services to keep up with demand.

Elliott did not “anticipate” that “demand is going to be huge because we’re asking people to be reasonable.”

“We have let people know what the requirements are well in advance of the changes being made. People do have until September 22 to be vaccinated,” she stressed.

The press also raised the issue of fake doctor’s notes for medical exemption and asked whether the government is concerned about fraud.

Elliott said the government doesn’t anticipate this occurring and that there “may be some situations where it does,” but as of October 22 “the medical exemption will be imprinted into the QR code.”

Ontario announced its proof of vaccination policy on Sept. 1. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination will be required for some services, including restaurants and bars; nightclubs; meeting and event spaces; sporting facilities and gyms; sporting events; casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments; concerts, music festivals, theatres and cinemas; strip clubs, bathhouses and sex clubs; and racing venues.

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