With the fourth wave of COVID-19 sweeping across the continents, new provincial health orders are now in effect and new ones will be in place by mid-September.
Beginning Sept. 13, B.C.’s provincial health officer has ordered that people 12 and over attending certain social and recreational settings will need to show proof of at least partial vaccination for COVID-19. This means that people will need to carry their paper vaccination cards that were issued when they received vaccine with them to enter certain spaces.
By Oct. 24, people will have to show proof that they are fully vaccinated (at least seven days after receiving the second dose) to enter certain public spaces. In addition, mask requirements for public spaces were reinstated Aug. 24 in an effort to slow the transmission of COVID-19.
According to the PHO, people will need to show proof of vaccination at restaurants, bars, swimming pools, weddings, conferences, sports events and fitness centers, for example.
“The province is making these changes to its pandemic plans as the fourth wave of COVID-19 moves throughout the province, mainly infecting unvaccinated people,” stated the Provincial Health Office.
Dr. Nel Wieman, acting deputy chief medical officer at FNHA, urges people to get vaccinated, continue to wear masks, frequently and thoroughly wash their hands and leave six feet of space between people outside of your household.
“The COVID-19 virus has proven itself to be stealthy and it is still spreading,” Wieman wrote in a public statement, acknowledging concern and disappointment that the virus is still circulating. “However we may feel, we know that if we want the pandemic to end, we will have to set aside our disappointment, square on our shoulders, and continue working together against it.”
To make things easier, the province has created a digital vaccination card that people may present using their mobile devices. The BC Health Gateway provides users a digital immunization card that can be shown at public events.
You may get your BC Vaccine Card online at gov.bc.ca/vaccinecard. Once verified, a person will be able to save a digital copy to their mobile device or print a hard copy to present along with their government-issued photo identification when entering designated businesses and events.
People without access to a computer and printer can get their card by calling 1-833-838-2323 at the Get Vaccinated call centre and for a printed copy to be mailed to them. They can have a trusted friend, family member or support person print their card for them. Or they can visit a Service BC Centre to get one.
Once downloaded, the app will prompt you to scan or enter codes from your BC Services Card, entering your birthdate and an email address. Once your email address is validated you will be prompted to make a video to confirm your identity. Alternatively, you can bring your identification and health apps to a designated location to activate your digital immunization card in person if that is your preference.
Once all information is entered online, it can take from a few hours to two business days to verify your information and get your digital card activated. The BC Vaccine Card will include a secure, individualized QR code and image showing either "vaccinated" or "partially vaccinated."
Businesses can either scan the QR code using a reader like a smartphone or visually verify the person's proof of vaccination. A mobile QR code reader app will be released in app stores closer to Sept. 13 for businesses that choose to scan the QR code.
"Getting vaccinated is the proven choice to protect ourselves and the people around us. The requirement for proof of vaccine will make our communities safer and ensure that events and gatherings are safer for all of us," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer. "I encourage everyone to get their BC Vaccine Card to protect their community, support their local businesses and each other."
The PHO recommends everyone over the age of 12 be vaccinated against COVID-19, because statistics show that it is the unvaccinated who are most commonly getting sick. From Aug. 20-26, the unvaccinated accounted for 72 per cent of infections, while those with both doses comprised 18 per cent of cases, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. Those without any shots made up 81 per cent of hospitalizations, while the fully vaccinated accounted for 11 per cent.
According to FNHA, Delta is the main COVID-19 variant circulating and it is moving more easily through the population than the original virus.
“(It can make) unvaccinated people even more sick than the original virus. People who have had only one shot are also getting sick more often than they did with previous variant,” states FNHA.
They went on to say that there are some “breakthrough” cases in fully vaccinated people.
“A breakthrough infection is an infection that happens after your body has had a chance to develop full protection from the COVID-19 vaccine, in other words, more than two weeks after the second dose,” states FNHA.
So, even if you are fully vaccinated, there is a small chance you may still get COVID-19. The good news is that the vaccine still offers protection, in that the illness will be less severe and provides excellent protection against hospitalization and death.
Drop-in vaccination clinics are available in communities throughout the province and appointments are not required. But if clinic hours don’t work for you, you may schedule a vaccination appointment by visiting https://www.getvaccinated.gov.bc.ca/s/ or call 1-833-838-2323.
Is your child feeling ill? People showing symptoms of illness are advised to stay home from school or work. In general, if you have fever, are coughing, have shortness of breath, you should stay home.
When in doubt, check the province’s symptom checker guidelines at https://www.k12dailycheck.gov.bc.ca/healthcheck?execution=e2s1 There, you will find a checklist of symptoms for different age groups to watch for.
"Getting vaccinated means, we can bring people back together and do more, safely, and with confidence that we're not putting those who aren't fully vaccinated at risk," said Premier John Horgan. "We have made the BC Vaccine Card easy for people to get, and easy for businesses to check at a glance.”
By getting vaccinated prior to Sept. 13, British Columbians can continue to access the events and settings that will be outlined in the PHO orders.
To learn more about the vaccine card and how to access yours, visit: gov.bc.ca/vaccinecard
Information for businesses, including step-by-step instructions can be found at gov.bc.ca/ (http://www.gov.bc.ca/vaccinecard-businesses)vaccinecard (http://www.gov.bc.ca/vaccinecard-businesses)-businesses (http://www.gov.bc.ca/vaccinecard-businesses)
The proof of vaccination provincial health order will remain in place until Jan. 21, 2022 and is subject to extension.