Ontario COVID-19 vaccine appointments double after province announces passport program

Ontario officials say vaccine appointments have more than doubled in the last 24 hours after the province announced a certification program making it mandatory to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to gain access to select non-essential services.

Health Minister Christine Elliott made the announcement on social media, saying that Ontario is “already seeing thousands more Ontarians roll up their sleeves.”

Nearly half of the appointments were for first doses, she said.

According to the Ministry of Health, there were 3,479 appointments booked using the provincial booking system on Aug. 31.

On Sept. 1, that number jumped to 7,125.

The rise in vaccine appointments came after the Doug Ford government announced Wednesday they would be implementing a vaccine certificate program that would make it mandatory for residents who want access certain indoor non-essential services—such as restaurants, gyms, theatres and banquet halls—to have received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.

The program goes into effect on Sept. 22. At that point, residents will need to download their receipt of vaccination using the provincial site.

The province hopes to have an app available a month later with a QR code that businesses can scan.

In modelling data also released Wednesday, health officials said that unvaccinated people have a six-fold higher risk of symptomatic COVID-19, a 30-fold higher risk of being hospitalized as a result and a 48-fold higher risk of ending up in intensive care.

It also said that unless Ontario sees a reduction in contacts and an increase in vaccinations, the number of COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions will continue to rise.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieron Moore has said that the province needs a 90 per cent vaccination rate in order to reach a state in which it becomes difficult for COVID-19 to spread rapidly in the community.

As of Thursday, 76.6 per cent of eligible Ontarians aged 12 and up are considered fully vaccinated. Just over 83 per cent have received at least one dose of a vaccine.