Ontario Releases Official COVID-19 Vaccine QR Codes… Here’s How You Can Get Yours, And What Happens When A Business Scans Your QR Code

On Friday, Ontario released their official QR code system to validate that you have had your COVID-19 vaccine so that you can enter certain venues. Specifically:

  • Restaurants and bars (excluding outdoor patios, as well as delivery and takeout)
  • Nightclubs (including outdoor areas of the establishment)
  • Meeting and event spaces, such as banquet halls and conference/convention centres
  • Facilities used for sports and fitness activities and personal fitness training, such as gyms, fitness and recreational facilities with the exception of youth recreational sport
  • Sporting events
  • Casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments
  • Concerts, music festivals, theaters and cinemas
  • Strip clubs, bathhouses and sex clubs
  • Racing venues (e.g., horse racing)

The QR code issued by Ontario adheres to SMART Health Card QR code standards, which means that this code can be read by BC, Quebec, and the Yukon along with other territories, states, and countries that use this standard.

A business can scan the QR code using the Verify Ontario app and verify that you are eligible to enter the above premises. You will need another piece of ID for the business verify that you are the person that the QR code says that you are. More on how that works in a bit.

Now you can get your QR code from this website as long as you have your green health card handy. Also, it has to be at least 14 days after your second COVID-19 shot before you try to download your QR code. Now during the opening weekend, the Ontario government is restricting access to make sure that the servers don’t melt based on your birth month:

  • January to April: October 15
  • May to August: October 16
  • September to December: October 17

As of October 18 at 6:00 a.m., the enhanced vaccine certificates will be available for all vaccinated Ontarians to download.

I got my QR code in the form of a PDF on Friday and it was very easy. And because I have an iPhone, I can do a couple of things:

  • From the portal, tap the PDF and a blue “Open in” link will appear. Click to open a menu that will allow you to email or download the PDF to your device. I stored the PDF in iCloud Drive so that I have it handy if I need to on all my Apple devices, as well as being backed up to the cloud.
  • You can add the QR code to Apple Health simply by pointing your camera at the QR code and clicking on the word “Health” that appears at the bottom of the QR code. That will store it on all your Apple devices for easy access. This requires iOS 15 to work.
  • When iOS 15.1 is released (likely in the next week or two), there will also be the ability to add the QR code to Apple Wallet for easier access.

As for Android users, From the download portal, tap the three vertical dots icon on the top-right and then tap “Save.” My suggestion would be to save it to Google Drive so that it is available on your phone and is basically backed up to the cloud.

The province says the enhanced vaccine certificate can be printed or downloaded to a phone as businesses must accept both electronic and paper versions. And businesses need to accept both the original vaccine receipts and the QR code. But my suspicion is that the province will eventually change that so that only QR codes would be acceptable by businesses as it is far more secure. Or put another way, it is far less likely to be altered by someone who isn’t vaccinated who just wants to get into a movie or a bar.

Speaking of businesses, when they scan your QR code with the Verify Ontario app, here’s what they will see:

This indicates that the QR code is valid and that the QR code needs to be confirmed with a valid piece of ID. Assuming the ID is on point, entry onto the premises will be granted.

This indicates that there is some sort of issue with the QR code. It may be that the code was issued by a province, state or territory that doesn’t adhere to SMART Health Card QR code standards, or the QR code was made using another method like this one. Entry onto the premises may not be granted in the event that the person doesn’t have a way to prove that they are fully vaccinated.

In this case, the visitor doesn’t meet the eligibility requirements to enter the premises. As in they might not be fully vaccinated, or they might not be 14 days beyond their second dose. Or the certificate might be outright invalid. Entry onto the premises may not be granted.

I tested this app and I can confirm that it does not transmit or store data. The only personal information that it displays is your name and birthdate.

Finally, I suspect the list of premises may be expanded as time goes on, or businesses who are not on the list may start using this app to verify who should enter their premises. Thus it would be wise to have your QR code on hand at all times just in case.

I would be interested in hearing your experience in downloading your QR code and using it. Was it easy to download? Did you have any issue using it at a venue? Leave a comment and share your experience.

UPDATE: Some iOS users have asked me about how the iPhone stores the information that it gets from the QR code into Apple Health. In short, the QR code is a Smart Health Card. When you take the picture of the QR code with your iPhone, Apple Health verifies and stores the entire “verifiable health record” that is contained inside the QR code. Thus the record in Apple Health is an exact digital copy of your vaccination records that is signed with Ontario’s public key.

3 Responses to “Ontario Releases Official COVID-19 Vaccine QR Codes… Here’s How You Can Get Yours, And What Happens When A Business Scans Your QR Code”

  1. […] Ontario has released their official QR code system along with an app to verify those QR codes. The methods above are no longer […]

  2. […] Straight Talk About Information Technology From A Nerd Who Speaks English « Ontario Releases Official COVID-19 Vaccine QR Codes… Here’s How You Can Get Yours, And W… […]

  3. […] Ontario moved to having a Vaccine Passport based around QR codes, I wrote about an unofficial way of getting them onto your iPhone via a third party service. Some […]

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