Vaccine cards not linked to any other health records, B.C. officials promise

B.C.'s proof-of-vaccination cards aren't linked to any other personal health records, officials said Tuesday while addressing potential privacy concerns.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry stressed that privacy was one of the government's top considerations while developing its vaccine passport system, which is being phased in on Sept. 13.

"There's no downloading of information, and, very importantly, there's no connection to other health information that you might have," she said.

Under the system, B.C. residents will have to present their vaccine card, which consists of a personal QR code obtained online or by phone, before dining at restaurants, going to the movies or taking part in a number of other non-essential activities.

An employee will scan the QR code using the BC Vaccine Card Verifier App, which officials promised will only provide businesses with the most basic details necessary to confirm immunization status.

"It only comes up with a report that tells you whether you're vaccinated or not," Henry said.

After scanning the card, employees will also be expected to check a piece of government-issued ID for any customers age 19 and over.

The vaccine card system was designed using a global privacy and security standard known as SMART, according to officials, and is similar to others already in place in Quebec and other jurisdictions.

Before details on B.C.'s plan were unveiled on Tuesday, some social media users expressed hesitancy about using the passport system, despite being immunized, unless they could be assured their privacy would be protected.

Henry stressed that the vaccine cards are safe and completely disconnected from other personal records, but noted that British Columbians should still keep them secure the same way they would any other document containing personal information.

"So don't post your own QR code on social media," she said.

Borrowing a friend or family member's QR code won't be an effective way to avoid getting vaccinated because of the additional ID requirement, Henry added.

She urged anyone who has yet to receive their first or second dose of COVD-19 vaccine to do so soon, but said those who refuse will continue to have access to grocery stores, hospitals and other essential businesses and services.

"If you've not yet been vaccinated, that is your choice," she said. "Essential activities and services will remain open for you just as the case has been for the last 20 months."

B.C.'s proof-of-vaccination system is currently expected to remain in place until the end of January 2022, but could be extended depending on the state of the pandemic.