The decision to extend B.C.’s vaccine card program past its Jan. 31 expiration date is “still under discussion,” according to the province’s top doctor.
The vaccine certificates, which are required to enter discretionary venues such as restaurants or cinemas, were introduced in September as COVID-19 cases were sloping upward amid the Delta variant wave. At that time, provincial authorities slated a Jan. 31, 2022, end date with the possibility of extending it past the end of this month.
Since then, the Omicron variant has sent cases surging to all-time records in B.C. as well as other jurisdictions across the globe.
“I want to find that balance of supporting businesses to stay open, supporting people to be in an environment that is as safe as possible. And it has been very effective,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said during a Tuesday briefing.
“We are looking at extending it to be able to support businesses and support people, and having confidence in going to theatres and restaurants and gyms in the future.
She added provincial authorities have “not yet made the final decision on whether it’s being extended.”
The Omicron variant is associated with milder symptoms than the Delta variant, but is considered to be far more transmissible and prone to more breakthrough cases among fully vaccinated people.
But health officials have observed that those milder symptoms are also typically found among those who have already been vaccinated against COVID-19, leaving a greater proportion of unvaccinated British Columbians hospitalized due to the virus.
While the province is the midst of a booster dose campaign, the vaccine card is meant to confirm whether someone is considered fully vaccinated. The province defines that as someone who has received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Most COVID-19 vaccines administered in B.C. fall under the mRNA (messenger RNA) category — products delivered in Canada by Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) and Moderna Inc. (NYSE:MRNA).
Henry said during Tuesday’s briefing that for those who’ve decided they’re not interested in mRNA vaccines, she’s hopeful the Novavax and Medicago vaccines would get the green light from Health Canada in the coming weeks.
“It is not going to be available to help you through this wave. But it is an additional option that will be coming, we hope, in the near future,” she said.