B.C.'s vaccine card not compatible with new federal system, but premier promises grace period
The provincial vaccine card downloaded by approximately 3.7 million B.C. residents isn't compatible with the federal proof-of-vaccination system Canadians will soon use when travelling.
That system, unveiled by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday, uses a standardized vaccine passport that features a traveller's name, their birthdate and detailed information on their COVID-19 vaccination history, including the types of vaccine received for each dose.
B.C.'s card only displays a user's name and vaccination status. Both the federal and provincial versions use a scannable QR code.
"The federal government's test is much higher for international travel, and we said so at the time that we implemented our immunization card," Premier John Horgan said, speaking to reporters hours after Trudeau's announcement.
"You're going to need two at the moment, and we'll see how we go in the months ahead, how we can bring those two together."
Canadians will be able to use the standardized passport during air travel, and the federal government has promised to promote the system internationally so it will be recognized by border agencies in other countries.
The standardized version is already available in Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut – but not British Columbia, which issued its vaccine card last month for regulating entry into venues such as sports stadiums, restaurants and movie theatres.
The federal government has said each province and territory is responsible for issuing the "standardized pan-Canadian" vaccine passport, and that they should be available within the next month. It's unclear why some province's cards are already prepared and others' aren't.
Horgan said B.C. is still working with the federal government to prepare for the launch of the new system on Oct. 30, and that he understands there will be a grace period during which the province's existing vaccine card will be accepted for travel. He could not say how long that grace period might last.
"We're going to hopefully clarify those issues in the days ahead," he said, acknowledging Thursday's announcement "does create confusion for people who are anxious to travel."
The premier also noted that all of the detailed information required for the federal passport, including the batch numbers of each dose received, is already securely stored by B.C.'s Ministry of Health.
Horgan said he understands the need for more detailed disclosure while travelling, and argued B.C.'s limited passport achieved its intended purpose of putting residents more at ease when getting back to some of their pre-pandemic activities like watching spectator sports.
"I do not regret for a minute that we took immediate steps to give people confidence that they could travel … within their community," he said.
The standardized national proof will feature verification measures and security features that prevent tampering and forgeries, according to the federal government.
The passports can also be used with ArriveCan when returning from abroad to be able to qualify for a quarantine exemption. The app has already been updated to “digitally validate the authenticity of the new Canadian COVID-19 proof of vaccination, allowing Canadian officials to easily review it at the border,” according to briefing materials.
After the system launches, Canadians will be able to board flights using proof of a negative COVID-19 test instead of a vaccine passport, though only until the end of November.
With files from CTVNews.ca's Rachel Aiello