Few details on Quebec's vaccine passport a week before rollout

The government has been running pilot projects throughout the province but has yet to announce specifics ahead of the Sept. 1 launch date.

Montreal Gazette 3 minute read August 24, 2021

Quebec is supposed to introduce a vaccine passport on Sept. 1, but with little more than a week to go, there are way more questions than answers about how this will all work. On Monday, a spokesperson for the Quebec Health Ministry said via email that the provincial government is not ready to announce details about the project, noting only that there will be an announcement soon. Later, the government announced a news conference about the vaccination campaign planned for 3 p.m. Tuesday.

The president of the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, Michel Leblanc, said the government needs to announce specifics about how the vaccine passport will work as quickly as possible.

“The introduction of the vaccine passport was welcomed by the business community because they see it as a great way to relaunch their businesses in a safe way,” Leblanc said in a statement. “But many business people are still asking how it works, both for their clients and also for their employees. The government should, as soon as possible, give clear instructions to companies who want to use the vaccine passport in order to allow their employees to return to in-person working in a safe fashion.”

The Health Ministry is currently running pilot projects to test the vaccine passport, including recent trials at the Midway Tavern on St-Laurent Blvd. last Friday and at Piknic Électronik at Jean-Drapeau Park on Sunday.

Earlier this month, Health Minister Christian Dubé announced that the government would launch a free mobile app that people who are fully vaccinated can use to access non-essential services, including bars, restaurants, gyms, outdoor festivals and sporting events. People who are not fully vaccinated will not be able to get the vaccine passport and will not be able to access these places once the system is set up.

For those who don’t have a smartphone, a paper proof of vaccination can be presented instead.

The government also says the vaccine passport can be used to travel abroad, but again, it’s unclear how that would work and which countries would accept the passport. Some countries don’t accept people who have mixed doses, which is something that could affect millions of Canadians.

Vaccine passports will not be necessary to enter schools, CEGEPs and universities, and staff at bars, restaurants and sporting and entertainment events will not have to be fully vaccinated. This is because the provincial labour code does not allow employers to demand this of their employees.

The thinking behind the vaccine passport is that it will allow the government to control the spread of COVID-19 without having to implement another major lockdown. On its web page about the vaccine passport, the government notes that when the QR code on a fully vaccinated person’s phone is scanned, an “adequately protected” message will appear in green. If the person is not fully vaccinated, the message displayed will be “not adequately protected” and they will be denied entry. Someone is considered “adequately protected” seven days after receiving the second dose of the vaccine.

The goal of the pilot projects that have been taking place throughout Quebec is to ensure that the technology works correctly and that the QR code can be scanned properly. The government has also been handing out a questionnaire to people at the test sites to see what they think of the process.