Doctor urges B.C. government to expand vaccine passport to liquor, cannabis stores

Starting on Tuesday, customers at government-run liquor and cannabis stores in Quebec will have to show proof of vaccination to enter. Dr. Brian Conway with the Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre thinks B.C. should follow suit.

“I can see the rationale for these kinds of rules. It will remind the unvaccinated there are consequences to the decision they have made to remain unvaccinated, and hopefully will prompt them to consider asking their questions, getting vaccinated and being part of the solution,” said Conway.

In Quebec, the expanded vaccine requirement triggered a surge in first dose vaccinations. The premier tweeted that 6,000 people signed up for their first jabs in the day after the announcement that liquor and cannabis stores would soon require it, compared to 1,500 per day in the preceding weeks.

New research from a team of economists at Simon Fraser University found when vaccine passports were announced across Canada, a spike in first dose immunization appointments always followed.

“For a segment of the population, this seems to encourage them to either get the vaccination or to get it sooner,” said SFU economist and study co-author Shih En Lu.

The pre-print study, which has yet to be peer reviewed, found daily vaccination registrations doubled after the B.C. government announced its proof of vaccination card for non-essential businesses back in August 2021.

By Oct. 31, it found 150,000 more British Columbians had registered than data would predict based on daily sign ups from before the vaccine passport announcement.

“One thing that our study can’t tell, the limitation of our study is whether these are people who would have done it later but did it sooner because of the mandate, or if these are people who would never have done it,” said Lu.

Conway says either way, vaccine passports work, and B.C. should consider adding government-run liquor and cannabis stores to its mandate.

Employees at government liquor and cannabis stores already have to be vaccinated in British Columbia. The union that represents them says those workers would appreciate knowing that customers have also had the jabs.

“For us, it is about the health and safety of our members and our workers,” said B.C. General Employees' Union president Stephanie Smith.

“We are watching Quebec where this will come into effect, and we want to see what the impact is on workers who are now going to enforce this vaccine passport,” said Smith, who added the B.C. government has not yet approached the union about expanding the vaccine requirement.

She suggested the big surge in vaccine appointments in Quebec after its announcement about liquor and cannabis stores could convince the province that it’s time to start that conversation.

“I wish everyone would get vaccinated because they see it as the right thing to do, to protect themselves and their families and their communities. But you know, if Quebec is having success here, I guess the numbers speak for themselves,” said Smith.