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My Ontario Vaccine Passport Fiasco

Ottawa, September 2021
Ottawa, September 2021

Update: ten days, four proof submissions and many phone calls later, I got my Ontario vaccine certificate. Phew. Thank you, Chris from Public Health Ottawa, whoever you are, you were very efficient!

According to common sense and billions of public health messages worldwide, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible was the right thing to do—for me, it meant receiving two Pfizer shots last spring in France.

According to the province of Ontario, my decision is “questionable.”

It’s a mess.

Feng and I saw a vaccine passport system coming for Ontario in August. Premier Doug Ford was coming out strongly against the concept, but he was bound to do a U-turn—Quebec had already announced a provincial vaccine passport for September.

“Try to contact health authorities,” Feng advised. “You’re going to need some kind of Canadian vaccine proof at one point.”

I checked the Ottawa Public Health website and completed the COVID-19 Out of Province Dose Documentation form as instructed. I also uploaded my two French vaccination receipts.

Ottawa Public Health, Proof of vaccine approved, August 2021
Ottawa Public Health, Proof of vaccine process, August 2021
Ottawa Public Health, Proof of vaccine process, August 2021
Ottawa Public Health, Proof of vaccine process, August 2021

I received the following email on August 14.

Ottawa Public Health, Proof of vaccine approved, August 2021
Ottawa Public Health, Proof of vaccine approved, August 2021

All good, reviewed and approved. No receipt, but since Ontario didn’t have a COVID-19 vaccination passport plan yet, I figured I just had to wait.

Lo and behold, a COVID-19 vaccine passport system kicked in on September 22 in Ontario.

Last week, I logged into Ontario Health’s portal and entered my Health Card number to download my proof of vaccination. A PDF was waiting for me—perfect!

However, when I opened it, I discovered it said I only received one dose, and the vaccination date, June 19, didn’t match any of my actual vaccination dates—I got dose 1 on April 19 and dose 2 on May 23.

I called Ontario Health, but I was told I should call Ottawa Public Health.

I called Ottawa Public Health, but I was told I should call Ontario Health.

So I called back Ontario Health and explained the issue once again.

“Now, let me talk. We can’t help you. This is not our problem.”

“Okay, so what am I supposed to do?”

“I’ll transfer you to Ottawa Public Health.”

I took a deep breath and, once again, I listened to annoying multi-layered phone menu system explaining what is COVID-19 and why we should all get vaccinated—just in case I had been living under a rock.

Up to this point, I had assumed it would be a quick phone call to fix a “system glitch” or something. Once in a while, I have to dial a 1-800 number to solve minor issues with a telco provider or a financial institution. I had been expecting a typical Canadian interaction—“oops, sorry about that, eh.” “Don’t worry about it, have a great day, eh.” I worked in two call centres, I swear I’m not an angry Karen. I’m fully aware that the person I’m talking to isn’t actually responsible for the problem—it’s just a matter of working together to fix it.

But this was turning into a “ border crossing experience”, one of these guilty-until-proven-innocent moments.

Eventually, I got someone on the phone and I explained the issue again—vaccinated in France, yes, two doses, proof of vaccination uploaded and approved, but it shows I only received one dose and the date is wrong.

“Oh, it’s probably someone else’s vaccine certificate.”

“Huh… okay…”

Very secure, glad to know that.

“Just go through the process again.”

“How long it is going to take to get approved? Because I kind of need—”

“Do you want me to help you or not?”

So, I filled out the form again and uploaded both vaccination proofs.

“Okay, I see your file. You only got one dose.”

“But I’ve just uploaded both proofs! One PDF for dose 1 and one for dose 2. Look at the second document, the EU Digital COVID Certificate—it says ‘Pfizer,’ ‘two doses’ and everything.”

“What time did you get your second dose?”

“What time? I… don’t remember exactly. Does it matter?”

“Huh. How can you not remember what time you got your second dose?”

“It was four months ago! I can check the appointment time but… 4 p.m. or 5 p.m., something like that.”

“You need the time. And it’s not even your name on the paper.”

“What? But… this is my full name, two last names, hyphenated.”

“Your Health Card only has one of them.”

“I know but… everything matches, middle name, last name, date of birth.”

“Yeah, maybe… but your ‘proof’ doesn’t state your time of vaccination. You need to go back to the vaccination centre and fix this.”

“I was vaccinated in France, I can’t just… go back and ask a vaccination centre to add time of vaccination!”

“Well, I’m questioning your proof of vaccination.”

And we went back and forth for 90 minutes. Feng heard me arguing over the phone and came over to help. “Send them your second vaccination receipt, the one with the QR code!”

“I did!”

“Then what else do they want?”

“I have no idea.”

I argued that my French proof of vaccination was accepted twice by CBSA when entering Canada. I even offered to send pictures taken at the vaccination centre (I was half-joking)—“Nothing proves it’s you on the picture, ma’am.”

The Ontario proof of vaccination online that wasn’t my proof of vaccination was deleted. I’ve been calling Ottawa Public Health every day for a week now. Meanwhile, my gym and the movie theatre we went to on Saturday accepted my French proof of vaccination.

I still need an Ontario vaccine proof because there’s no guarantee whoever is at the door on duty will accept my EU digital certificate, which is understandable.

Ontario Health, no vaccination proof under my name, September 2021
Ontario Health, no vaccination proof under my name, September 2021

I doubt I’m the only Ontario resident who was vaccinated abroad, by the way. “And you’re a white woman with a vaccination proof from France!” a friend from Guinea noted. “They’re going to question proofs from anyone coming from Asia, Africa…”

Get your shit together, Canada. This is ridiculous.

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