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B.C. pharmacy investigated for allegedly helping people fake vaccine records

A pharmacy in B.C.'s Lower Mainland is being investigated for allegedly helping unvaccinated individuals sneak their names into the province's COVID-19 vaccine registry.

That would allow people to download the B.C. Vaccine Card – which is still required for a number of discretionary activities, including dining in restaurants – without being immunized.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the matter remains under investigation, but that the Burnaby business is no longer participating in the government's immunization program.

The province has also suspended the pharmacy's ability to bill through PharmaCare, a rarely used measure that's available under the Pharmaceutical Services Act.

If any pharmacists are found to have entered people's information into B.C.'s vaccine system without actually providing them with vaccine, there will be "very serious consequences," Dix said.

"This is serious business," the minister said at a news conference Friday. "People have the right to their views, but you have to behave in an appropriate manner."

Those consequences could include prosecution, according to the Ministry of Health.

Dix said the investigation involves a specific pharmacy location, and not the chain to which it belongs. On Friday, a notice at the Medicine Shoppe at 4277 Kingsway indicated it was not dispensing prescriptions. 

Asked how these kinds of allegations are investigated, Dix said the government can check if a pharmacy has been routinely providing vaccinations to people who live more than 100 kilometres away from its location.

"Say you drive by 50 pharmacies to go to a particular pharmacy, and then a lot of people do that, that would be an unusual result. That's the kind of thing you could determine through our systems very easily," the minister said.

It's unclear whether there could also be consequences for unvaccinated individuals who took part in the alleged scheme, but officials did not rule out that possibility. The Ministry of Health told CTV News any fraudulent vaccine records will be removed from the registry, and ill-gotten B.C. Vaccine Cards will be revoked.

The B.C. Pharmacy Association told CTV News that it supports the government's investigation, calling the integrity of the province's vaccine program "extremely important."

"The COVID-19 vaccine helps keep our communities safe. British Columbians should know that when an individual is identifying themselves as fully vaccinated, that they are indeed fully vaccinated," a spokesperson said in an email.

The College of Pharmacists told CTV News it could not comment on the allegations, or even confirm whether it is conducting an investigation of its own.

Apart from dining at restaurants, proof of vaccination is also required for attending indoor weddings, ticketed sporting events and other events. Officials are expected to end the B.C. Vaccine Card program early next month.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Travis Prasad and The Canadian Press Top Stories

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