On August 23, as the fourth wave of COVID-19 begins to build up – and queues at vaccine clinics continue to shrink – the B.C. government plans to require vaccine passports to access restaurants and bars, sporting events, theaters and gyms announced. This was followed by angry protests. But the policy has also led to a significant increase in vaccination rates.
While Alberta tried lottery and $100 cash cards to lure vaccination holdouts, B.C. health officials, along with those in Ontario, Quebec and other provinces, calculated it would take a tough policy to boost rates. This week, after repeatedly rejecting such a policy, Alberta and Saskatchewan announced their own vaccine passport systems. And it looks like Alberta is finally getting results.
More than anyone, it’s young adults who have responded to BC’s passport program by booking their shots. The potential loss of social activities has proven to be a powerful tool of persuasion. In the three weeks since the policy was announced, more than 20,000 British Columbians between the ages of 18 and 24 have had their first shot of the vaccine – a significant jump in turnout from the summer trend. The day before the announcement, only 351 people in that age group had registered for the vaccine. A day later, registrations increased to 2,030 and an average of 1,000 people have signed up every day for the past three weeks.
The vaccination rate for this group is now higher than the provincial average, and by next week, if the trend continues, 18- to 24-year-old British Columbians will be more likely to be vaccinated than 65-to-69- . year-olds, who were offered the vaccine months before them.
In contrast, Alberta’s incentive programs—starting with a lottery announced in early summer and then, more recently, gift cards—have had little effect on driving up the province’s comparatively low vaccination rates. Provincial figures show that the lottery scheme did not prompt people to book appointments when it was announced in June, and there was a noticeable but relatively small increase in bookings after the gift card was announced.
The day Alberta reversed course last Wednesday and announced a form of vaccine passport, bookings exceeded 25,000, Premier Jason Kenney said.
“I wasn’t exactly jumping out of my seat to get it,” he said, as 22-year-old Maxwell Neck got his first shot in Vancouver after passport policy was announced in B.C. “It forced my hand. … you can’t go anywhere, do most things without it.”
Mr. Neck visits his father every week for beer and chicken wings. On Tuesday, he showed his vaccine card for the first time so that he could continue his weekly tour. “I think it’s fundamentally wrong to force people to do this. But now I’ve made my choice and I’m moving on.”
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the Vaccine Passport was designed for all ages – but it is especially important for people in Mr.
“Young people are more socially active and have seen higher transmission rates than other groups. In this sense, this trend is very important, ”he said in an interview. “While the consequences are clearly more severe among older people as a group, younger people can and do get very sick.” He said this week there are 19 COVID-19 patients under the age of 40 in intensive care units in B.C., and none of them are fully vaccinated.
By September 13, those who want access to a range of non-essential indoor services in BC must show proof of at least one dose of the vaccine with a second shot by October 24. Digital or paper vaccine cards are required in settings such as ticketed sporting events, concerts, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, casinos, gyms and movie theaters. The program is meant to encourage higher vaccination rates, but also promises greater certainty for businesses as they can provide a safe environment for their patrons, including at different times since the start of the pandemic. Less likely to be the type of closures or restrictions imposed. Public health emergency in March, 2020.
The marquee outside the Rio Theater in Vancouver reads: “No Commentary, No Silver Screen.” Corinne Lee, CEO of Independent Theatre, says the passport system is good for business. “I see it as a way to help art survive, which only involves people who are vaccinated,” she said.
Theaters remained closed for a long time due to pandemic restrictions, but are now allowed to operate with limited seating capacity. “Our ticket sales are great. We are seeing epidemic numbers even with only half capacity,” Ms. Lee said. “The way forward is clear.”
Mr Kenny abandoned his earlier opposition to a vaccine passport in front of a health care system on the verge of overload due to a growing number of critically ill COVID-19 patients. The programme, which will allow businesses to avoid restrictions if they choose and agree to verify the vaccination status of their customers, will begin on Monday.