Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

Here’s what you need to know about Canada’s new vaccine passports

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced this week that Canada will have a standardized vaccine passport, with costs for the document covered through the federal budget.
photo proof of vaccination vaccine passport
A sign outside a Saanich recreation centre advising of the need to present proof of vaccination for entry. TIMES COLONIST

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced this week that Canada will have a standardized vaccine passport, with costs for the document covered through the federal budget.

But while the vaccine cards for many provinces and territories are already compatible with the federal format, B.C.’s card — one of the first rolled out in the country — is not immediately compatible, and it will take time to harmonize the two cards, according to provincial authorities.

When will the federal vaccine card be available and how do I get one?

B.C.’s Ministry of Health said the federal vaccine card will be available starting Oct. 30 and can be accessed the same way people access their B.C. vaccine card: Using the Health Gateway (healthgateway.gov.bc.ca), through the Ministry of Health’s website, by phone or by mail (more details at gov.bc.ca/vaccinecard)

Will the federal vaccine card replace our existing one or will we need both (i.e., one for restaurants, one for travel)?

Marielle Tounsi, public affairs officer with the Ministry of Health, said B.C. will maintain the provincial vaccine card for non-essential activities, such as restaurants and sports games, while also offering the new federal proof-of-vaccination card for those who need it to travel.

That means that at least for the time being, British Columbians looking to travel domestically or internationally will need to have two separate vaccine cards — the B.C. card for local services and a federal card for travel.

Why can’t I just use the federal vaccine card to access local services in B.C.?

Tounsi said the detailed information provided on federal vaccination cards is not required by, for example, restaurant employees and concert vendors. “More than 3.6 million people have downloaded the B.C. vaccine card and it’s working well,” she wrote.

Tounsi did not provide details on when, or if, the provincial vaccination card would be phased out.

B.C. tourism operators haven’t yet expressed concerns over the two-card requirement, said Walt Judas, CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of B.C.

“While it may be inconvenient to go through the process of downloading a federal version of the existing B.C. vaccination card, we recommend consumers do so once it becomes available in B.C., given it will eventually become standard and recognized in every province and territory, as well as by other countries,” Judas wrote in response to emailed questions.

“We expect that current provincial vaccination cards will still be recognized within B.C. for the foreseeable future with no need to carry a federal version,” unless a person plans to travel out of province.

Will I be able to travel within Canada using my current B.C. card?

Until the federal card is available in B.C., you can continue to use the B.C. card as proof of vaccination. Ottawa has said there will be a one-month grace period until Nov. 30 for those who are in the middle of the vaccination process. Otherwise, starting Oct. 30, you will need the federal card to provide proof of immunization for travel on trains or planes in Canada.

I’m travelling internationally. Which vaccine card or documentation will I need?

The federal vaccine card will be required for any travel to or from a Canadian airport or other federally regulated transportation (such as Via Rail). A press release from the federal government said travellers can continue to use their provincial proof of vaccination for domestic or international travel “if their province is not yet issuing the standardized proof of vaccination.”

- - -

To comment on this article, send a letter to the editor: letters@timescolonist.com