Canadians will have a new standardized proof of COVID-19 vaccination to let them travel within Canada and abroad, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Thursday.
He said the new federally approved vaccine passport will still be issued by each province and territory, though it will now have a federal stamp of approval in the form of a Government of Canada logo.
Many provinces and territories are already issuing the updated documentation: Mr. Trudeau said it’s already the proof of vaccination available in Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the three territories. Canadians in those parts of the country will see the new Canada logo on their document, which will allow them to prove internationally that they’ve had their shots. Mr. Trudeau said the rest of the provinces are working on implementation.
“We made a commitment to ensure that there is a national standard for a proof of vaccination certificate,” he said at a press conference in Ottawa. “So that people can travel domestically but particularly internationally.”
He did not directly answer a question about whether other countries have confirmed they will accept the new vaccine documentation for travel, but said he is “very confident” that this proof of vaccination will be accepted worldwide.
Mr. Trudeau said that every province and territory has agreed to this new national standard, and that the federal government is picking up the tab so all parts of the country can make the switch.
However, B.C. Premier John Horgan said that process isn’t straightforward.
Speaking to reporters in Victoria on Thursday, Mr. Horgan said that his province’s current proof-of-vaccination document doesn’t have enough information, such as type of vaccine, to meet the federal standard.
“If you have no plans to travel in the immediate future, the 3.7 million of you who have already downloaded a B.C. immunization card can continue to go to a play, continue to go to a concert, go out for dinner with some friends,” he said. But British Columbians won’t be able to travel internationally with their vaccine passport until it’s updated and gets the federal stamp of approval.
He said B.C. would work with Ottawa to harmonize the cards.
In a statement released Thursday, the Canadian Airports Council called the standardized proof of vaccination a “welcome step” to reopening air borders and revitalizing travel.
Travellers boarding flights at Canadian airports and embarking on VIA Rail trains will need to have proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test starting on Oct. 30. As of Nov. 30, the option to present a negative COVID-19 test will not be available and the government has said full vaccination will be the only option – with rare exceptions.
Also at Thursday’s press conference, Mr. Trudeau announced that Canada will receive enough pediatric vaccine doses to administer the first shots for all eligible children soon after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine gets the green light from Health Canada.
Health Canada is reviewing a submission for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11, which was officially submitted on Monday.
“We will have the supply necessary to support every kid across the country, from 5 to 11, with vaccinations, as soon as possible,” after Health Canada’s approval, Mr. Trudeau said.
A separate statement from Procurement Minister Anita Anand specified that the country will get 2.9 million doses, enough for first doses for everyone in that age group.
In April, the federal government struck a deal with Pfizer to buy new formulations of the COVID-19 vaccine for younger people as well as for new variants of concern. The deal was announced in addition to an agreement to buy booster shots in 2022 and onward.
The 2.9 million doses “are being advanced so that they can be delivered prior to 2022 if the vaccine receives regulatory approval in this population before then,” Pfizer Canada spokesperson Christina Antoniou said in a statement to The Globe and Mail on Thursday.
On Sept. 10, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam said “if everything goes well” she hoped the vaccine for five- to 11-year-olds would be approved “toward the end of this year.”
Regulatory bodies in the United States are meeting in the last week of October and first week of November to review the Pfizer vaccine for five- to 11 year-olds. On Wednesday, the White House said it would be ready to get shots in arms in the days following a final recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
With a report from Justine Hunter in Victoria
Know what is happening in the halls of power with the day’s top political headlines and commentary as selected by Globe editors (subscribers only). Sign up today.
The Canadian Press