The province will be making its new vaccine certificate QR code available for download over the next three days, starting today with those who have birthdays in the first four months of the year.
As of this morning, Ontario residents with birthdays in the months of January, February, March, and April can download the new QR code online and those born in the months of May, June, July, and August can download the code on Saturday. People with birthdays in the last four months of the year can access their QR code on Sunday.
All Ontario residents who are ages 12 and older are already required to show proof of vaccination to dine in at restaurants, as well as visit gyms, movie theatres, and other high-risk indoor settings, including sports and concert venues. Children under 12, who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, along with people with valid medical exemptions are not required to be immunized to enter these establishments.
Members of the public currently display a digital or paper copy of their COVID-19 vaccine receipt to prove they have been fully vaccinated.
The province says people may continue to use their current vaccine receipt as proof of vaccination if they prefer, however the receipt will no longer be available to download through the provincial portal starting today.
Ontario residents will still be required to show valid photo identification along with the QR code or vaccine receipt.
The province launched the new enhanced vaccination certificate system today ahead of schedule after previously indicating that the QR codes would be available by Oct. 22. The Verify Ontario app, a free, mobile application designed by the province to allow businesses to scan the codes to verify vaccination status, was quietly made available for download on Thursday. Businesses can download the app, which is available in English and French, on the Apple app and Google Play stores.
When a business uses the app to scan a QR code, a checkmark or ‘X’ will appear, along with the name and date of birth of the person associated with the code. The province says while businesses are encouraged to use the digital tools at their disposal, they are not required to use the Verify Ontario app. Officials said Friday that the new QR code documents contain all of the information needed to visually verify vaccination status without using the app.
Those who receive a COVID-19 shot going forward will be given a QR code document rather than a vaccine receipt, the province says, but a green checkmark of approval will not appear when the code is scanned until 14 days after they receive their second shot.
Those who are unable to access their QR code online can call the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900 and a paper copy of the QR code will be mailed to them.
The province says the Verify Ontario app does not store personal information and will make confirming proof of vaccination faster, easier and more secure for businesses and patrons.
The province says medical exemptions have not yet been included into the enhanced vaccine certificate system. Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province is working to incorporate them but she was not able to provide a specific timeline for when they will be included.
"The issue really here is that we can only put information into the QR code that’s already in the COVAX system and the medical exemptions aren’t in the COVAX system yet," Elliott said Friday.
"So there is a process we will be going through where people who do have a medical exemption will then take it to their public health unit, it will be reviewed there, and then will be input into the COVAX system through the public health unit and then it can be put on to the QR code."
The app, which works offline, will be compatible with QR codes from other provinces, including in British Columbia and Quebec, and officials say testing is currently underway to ensure Ontario QR codes are compatible with the Quebec system.
News of the enhanced vaccine certificate comes as Premier Doug Ford promises to release a plan for easing capacity limits for more businesses, including restaurants.
The Ford government came under fire this week for lifting all capacity limits at sports venues, including Scotiabank Arena, but not at restaurants and gyms.
When asked whether Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), which helped develop the province's new Verify Ontario app, got a sweatheart deal from the Ford government, the premier vehemently denied the suggestion.
"We have a plan, a very strong plan, moving forward, a cautious plan, that we are going to support the restaurants," Ford said at a news conference on Friday. "We are going to roll out our plan next week."