The Rural Pharmacist: Provincial Vaccine Certificate and Current Utility of Rapid Antigen Tests

You can also read our pharmacist blogs in the Oliver Paipoonge and Neebing monthly newsletters!

by Devon Myers, Pharmacist/Owner of Evergreen Pharmacies

Whether you’re for it or you’re against it, the provincial vaccine certificate policy will have come into play by the time you read this article. As I’m sure you’re aware, starting September 22nd the Ontario government made it mandatory to provide proof of vaccination in order to  gain access to a host of non-essential businesses and settings. This included establishments such as indoor restaurants, bars and gyms. However, essential businesses remained open to all. Our pharmacies are comfortably stocked with both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. For anyone still considering a vaccine, our staff is here to help.  Who doesn’t want to gather with family and friends over dinner at a restaurant? Good news! If you’ve received two doses of vaccine then you’ve already got the ticket!

Once a recipient has been administered a vaccine they are given a receipt of vaccination. This could have been given as a paper copy or as an electronic document. I received a small credit card-sized receipt from the clinic being held at Lakehead University after my first dose. I had my second receipt emailed directly to me with an attached PDF document after my second. Either way, demonstration of the second receipt is what non-essential businesses will be looking for at the beginning of the vaccine certificate policy. From what I understand the Ontario government is also working on an app that can be used by businesses to scan a QR code which will prove patron eligibility. However, that program hasn’t launched yet. If you’ve misplaced your receipt you can contact the Ministry of Health to have them email you a copy. Still having trouble? Call the pharmacy and our staff can assist you with obtaining a new receipt.

Of note, proof of a negative Covid-19 test will not pass during this provincial policy. This goes for both the PCR tests and the rapid antigen tests available in some pharmacies. This can be a bit confusing because a negative test result was previously sufficient for gaining access to certain venues.

However, our pharmacy is still providing rapid antigen tests for Covid-19 screening. Screening is the key word in that last sentence. At this time the rapid antigen test is being used to screen if an asymptomatic person (someone who doesn’t exhibit symptoms) has Covid-19. But what is the point if I can’t use a negative test result to get into the Fighting Walleye’s home game this weekend? Well, perhaps your employer requires you to get screened throughout the week if you haven’t been vaccinated. Or, maybe you’re planning travel (always check with local health units to determine vaccination policies). That’s where these point of care tests come in handy. 

It should be noted that rapid antigen tests are not meant for diagnostic purposes. If you are symptomatic and think you may have Covid-19 or, have come into contact with a confirmed case, you are advised to book an appointment with an organization such as the Thunder Bay Regional Health and Science Centre for proper laboratory testing.