Similar to other jurisdictions that have implemented COVID-19 vaccine certificate programs, Ontario’s deputy premier and health minister is reporting the province has seen a spike in bookings.
Premier Doug Ford and members of his government announced on Wednesday that as of Sept. 22, Ontario residents will need to show proof of full vaccination (having received two doses at least 14 days before entry) along with a piece of photo ID in order to access several public indoor settings.
Christine Elliott tweeted out that vaccine bookings on the provincial government portal “more than doubled.”
“Today, we’re already seeing thousands (of) more Ontarians roll up their sleeves, nearly half of whom are receiving their first dose,” she wrote Thursday afternoon, calling it “great news.”
In a statement to Global News Thursday afternoon, a spokesperson for Elliott said 3,479 appointments were booked through the Ontario COVID-19 vaccine booking system on Tuesday. On Wednesday (the day of the announcement), 7,125 appointments were booked.
As of 1 p.m. on Wednesday, 3,764 first doses and 5,627 second doses were administered. As of 1 p.m. on Thursday, 5,957 first doses and 6,441 second doses were administered.
Across Ontario, 83 per cent of all eligible residents 12 and older received their first dose and 77 per cent received their second dose.
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However, the bump in bookings reported by the Ontario government after the program announcement wasn’t unique.
When the British Columbia government announced in August it was instituting a vaccine passport program, officials reported more than 19,000 people registered through that province’s booking portal during the day of the announcement and the day after, nearly triple the number people who registered on the same two days the week prior.
There was a similar response in Quebec where bookings on the day the vaccine passport program was announced doubled compared to the same day a week earlier.
In Ontario, there will be a two-step process before the enhanced provincial certificate program comes into full effect.
As of Oct. 22, the Ontario government is scheduled to roll out a new QR code-based application for residents and business operators to use in order for scans. Officials said new certificates similar to the current PDF ones will be issued. The new documents will contain a unique QR code that when scanned will display the holder’s current vaccination status (yes or no) and the person’s name.
The scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Table, which advises the province on the pandemic, said the vaccine certificate will be an important tool to help keep case counts low.
Without vaccination rates above 85 per cent, the science table has found Ontario residents will have to reduce their contacts to 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels from the roughly 80 per cent they’re at now.
Dr. Peter Juni said Ontario was at that 70 per cent point during Step 2 of its reopening plan. The province is currently in Step 3 of the plan and all further reopening has been paused.
“Our Step 2 was still case neutral, meaning the case numbers didn’t go up, they didn’t go down. We were OK,” he said.
“What did we add? We added gyms, indoor dining and some other settings, and that’s what caused case numbers to increase.”
Juni said those are the areas being targeted by the vaccine certificate system, to ensure people who aren’t protected against COVID-19 reduce their high-risk contacts.
— With files from The Canadian Press and Simon Little