vaccine passport

Ontario vaccination numbers are spiking hard after vaccine passport announcement

It's been just two days since the Government of Ontario announced that it would be introducing a vaccine passport for select settings starting later this month, and the new measure is already having a huge effect.

Bookings for COVID-19 shots, which had plateaued in recent weeks after the vast majority of those intending to get inoculated against the virus had already done so, are now on the rise, more than doubling in the central booking system on Wednesday following the news.

"We're already seeing thousands more Ontarians roll up their sleeves, nearly half of whom are receiving their first dose," Health Minister Christine Elliott tweeted out just two hours after Premier Doug Ford's press conference revealing the proof of vaccination program.

The topic of potential for proof of vaccination being required to enter certain businesses and take part in certain activities has been a hot one as of late, with B.C. and Quebec currently rolling out their own versions of the measure to help mitigate virus spread amid variants of concern. 

In Ontario, starting Sept. 22, residents will need to show confirmation they received after their shots from the Ministry of Health to gain access to non-essential indoor settings such as bars, restaurants, nightclubs, meeting and event spaces, gyms, sports games, concerts, theatres and cinemas, strip clubs and casinos, all identifid as "high-risk" for transmission.

A standard digital vaccine receipt with a QR code, to be used with an app, is in development and will be made available by Oct. 22.

"As we enter the last mile push to increase vaccination rates, the introduction of a vaccine certificate is an important step to give people the tools to limit further spread of the virus so that we can ensure the safety of all Ontarians while keeping the province open and operational," the province's Chief Medical Officer of Health said at Wednesday's presser.

The Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table has also warned that if vaccination uptake in the province doesn't increase, sectors of the economy may have to shut down again in some stricter iteration of lockdown — something Ford said last month would definitely not be happening again.

"We just can't go back, we have to go forward. We can't afford another lockdown," he said during a media briefing on July 15.

This was before daily new case numbers in the province started surging over 800, as they have in the last two days.

The science table is now advocating for a higher immunization target than initially proposed for further reopening past Step 3, "substantially above 85 per cent" fully vaxxed.

It has also suggested immediately reducing contacts through the return of some lighter restrictions, such as implementing more stringent capacity limits in indoor settings and cutting down on large gatherings. Also, continuing with mask usage and working from home if possible.

As of the latest data, 84 per cent of eligible Ontarians 12 and older have received one dose of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 jab, while more than 77 per cent have had both.

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