The province is extending its vaccine certificate program through to June 30 but is leaving the door open to making “adjustments” if the COVID-19 situation improves before then.
The B.C. vaccine card program was due to expire Jan. 31 and was widely expected to be extended after provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said repeatedly since December an extension was under consideration.
“If we are in a better place before June 30, however, we will look to make adjustments,” she said during a Tuesday briefing.
The vaccine certificates, which are required to enter discretionary venues such as restaurants or cinemas, were introduced in September 2021 as COVID-19 cases were heading upward amid the Delta variant wave.
Provincial authorities slated a Jan. 31, 2022, end date at that time 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.
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.
“In terms of the vaccine card, it has been very effective. Again, it does not eliminate the risk but we do know and we continue to see that if you’re not vaccinated, your risk – your personal risk – has gone up dramatically with Omicron,” Henry said.
While the province is the midst of a booster dose campaign, the vaccine card is meant to confirm whether someone is fully vaccinated. The province defines that as someone who has received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine (boosters are the third dose).
“I don’t expect to add a booster dose as being part of it,” Henry said, referring to how the government defines whether someone is fully vaccinated.
Among the reasons for that, she said, is some people have not yet had the chance to become eligible for a third shot.
Last week, the province administered 350,000 booster doses and Health Minister Adrian Dix said he expects the same number to be administered this week.
He urged the 624,000 British Columbians — 48,070 of whom are over the age of 70 — who have not yet booked an appointment for a booster after receiving an invite to go ahead and schedule their shots.
Meanwhile, earlier Tuesday, the National Advisory Committee for Immunization (NACI) recommended immunocompromised children ages five to 11 receive a booster dose four to eight weeks after their second dose.
NACI had previously stated boosters may be offered to such children.
Henry said she was pleased NACI was strengthening its prior recommendations with the new language it was using.