Premier John Horgan and Health Minister Adrian Dix look on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks about the COVID-19 vaccine card set to arrive in mid-September as they discuss details about the process during a press conference at provincial legislature in Victoria, Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Many questions remain over B.C. proof of vaccination plan: MLA

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka raises concerns over enforcement and penalties for proof of vaccination

Many questions remain unanswered regarding a COVID-19 vaccine certificate requiring proof of vaccination for entry into indoor events and restaurants, according to a Kootenay-based B.C. Liberal Party MLA.

Tom Shypitka, who represents the riding of Kootenay East, said the provincial government’s B.C. Vaccine Card — which will be necessary to gain entry to indoor spaces such as concerts, sports events, movie theatres, restaurants and fitness centres — is a “controversial” issue.

“There’s a lot of unanswered questions here,” said Shypitka. “We support the vaccinations, at least I do, at least my party does, but we got to look at how this [card] is rolled out. Who does it affect? What problems come from that? How it is enforced? That is another question — who’s enforcing this? Is it going to be left up to the 16-year-old waitress that serves someone who’s very aggressive on this? It’s not fair to her to do that. What are the penalties? Are they enforceable? Does a business get shut down? What about the server — are they required to be vaccinated?”

READ: Proof of vaccination to be required for B.C. sports, movies, restaurants

Available by Sept.13, the province will enable people to download a digital copy of proof of vaccination onto a mobile phone, while individuals who cannot access documentation online will be provided with another alternative. By Oct. 24th, the province is mandating that people are required to have their second dose in order to get access to indoor businesses or events.

Proof of vaccination will also be required for out-of-province travellers, which may include a provincially or territoriality recognized vaccination record and government identification.

The proof of vaccination is a temporary requirement set to run until the end of January 2022, but will be reviewed as it gets closer to the end of the year.

During a press conference announcing the measure on Monday, Aug. 23, Dr. Henry likened proof of vaccination as similar to requiring proof of identification of age to get into a bar or a nightclub.

“Yes, we do expect that there may be a small group of people who are protesting against this as they have for other measures along the way,” said Dr. Henry, “but as it is a provincial health officer order, we do have the ability to support businesses with bylaw officers, with environmental health officers, and we’ll be continuing to work with them to support businesses in doing this in a way that’s effective.”

The B.C. Chamber of Commerce also raised concerns about enforcement by businesses and frontline workers.

“Burdening businesses and frontline employees with enforcement of public health related initiatives is not appropriate and must be handled in an informed way and with all stakeholders in mind,” said Fiona Famulak, president of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce. “We are here to provide insight from business, and we invite government to work with us on these details to ensure a fair program is achieved.”

Shypitka says he recognizes the challenges posed by those who are choosing to forgo vaccination for medical or religious reasons.

“Choice is not a bad thing, but I guess the end message is get a vaccination. I think that’s a legitimate thing to do unless you’re compromised some other way,” said Shypitka.

According to the latest data from the B.C. government, 83.2 per cent of eligible people 12 years of age or older in the province has had a first dose and 74.9 per cent have had a second dose.

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