PRINCE RUPERT, B.C. -- The Smithers Chamber of Commerce is raising concerns about the province's upcoming vaccine passport system.

In a letter to its members from Thursday, the chamber says that although it understands why vaccine passports may be preferable to complete shutdowns of non-essential businesses, it was not consulted on the lead-up to the program's announcement.

“The August 23 government announcement came with surprise to our Chamber and has since proven very challenging for our network to navigate. Without the advantage of earlier communication and consultation, this Public Health Order leaves us with many unanswered details and questions, all of which influence both workplaces and the general public,” reads the letter.

The chamber sent out surveys to 300 of its members to learn how businesses are reacting to the announcement. It received “hundreds of valuable responses from the chamber members and the public” that presented a mixture of support and opposition towards the survey's questions.

However, the results also showed there’s an overall level of concern regarding the implementation and enforcement of it.

“We are concerned that the enforcement of the vaccine passport program will directly impact businesses with what we anticipate to be expensive and time consuming challenges during a period of intensifying labor shortages. Additionally, we are concerned that business owners, managers and staff will be vulnerable in the face of difficult and divisive conversations that may occur in many workplaces, as community members interact with businesses.”

The chamber is calling on the province to improve its communications with impacted businesses, provide financial support for the establishment of the electronic passport scan system and clarify that the proof of vaccine program won't be extended past January without full consultation.

The Smithers Local Health Area – which also includes Houston, Witset and Telkwa – has one of the lower vaccination rates in the province. As of September 7th, 71 per cent of residents aged 12 and up have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, while 61 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Earlier today, the province announced more details about how the vaccine card program will work. People who have received at least one vaccine dose can log onto a website launched by the province early today to input their personal information and download a “B.C. Vaccine Card,” which is presented in the form of a QR code that can be displayed and scanned on people’s smartphones.

The vaccine passport system comes into effect on September 13th.