B.C. social worker placed on unpaid leave says she can't produce her QR vaccination code due to system error
Sheena Szlachta says she feels abandoned by system as she fights to access code that would let her work
A social worker who says she is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 has been placed on unpaid leave by her employer because she has been unable to access a QR code proving that she has received two doses of vaccine.
Sheena Szlachta works for the B.C. Public Service, which, on Oct. 5, mandated that all employees provide proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by end of day Nov. 22.
Szlachta, 36, has been unable to download the QR code the province of B.C. has implemented as proof of vaccination, even though, she says, she has received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Repeated attempts to input her date of birth, personal health number and date of her doses in the B.C. Vaccine Card registry yield a grey screen saying no data is available.
Szlachta, who lives in North Vancouver, B.C., said that while she has showed her workplace other proof of vaccination, including her paper vaccination record, she has been on unpaid leave since Nov. 23.
Szlachta said she received her first dose of vaccine in early September, and her second in early October, when the interval between doses in B.C. had been reduced to 28 days.
She says she fears she will not be able to support herself and her 10-year-old daughter if the problem with her card is not resolved soon.
"I can't sleep. I can barely eat and I'm just so worried — I just wish there could be some kind of resolution. It's right before Christmas. I've got my kid and I'm really really trying hard to keep it together for her," she said.
A letter from her provincial employer says, "You confirmed that you are vaccinated for COVID-19, though have not been able to produce your QR code and are being placed on a leave of absence without pay."
Szlachta said she believes there should have been more leniency for those facing technical glitches and delays in accessing their proof of vaccination.
"It's either you have the QR code or you don't. And if you don't, they don't have anything in the policy about showing the paper card," she said.
In a statement, the Ministry of Health said "while these incidents are not common, the provincial team is creating incident tickets for individuals who have experienced vaccine record complications for follow-up to resolve these issues as quickly as possible."
The ministry did not respond to a CBC News question about how many people are waiting to access their QR codes or whether a backlog exists.
A statement from B.C.'s Public Service Agency said a paper copy of the QR code would be accepted — but Szlachta isn't able to access that either.
Repeated attempts to access health information
Szlachta says her inability to access her code has sent her into a tailspin, and after five weeks of attempts to resolve the issue, she is no closer to accessing the information she needs to resume working.
The B.C. Health Gateway website currently shows no record of her first or second dose when she inputs her personal health number.
She says the toll-free B.C. vaccine card line told her she would need to wait and that the delay in processing her information could be caused by a backlog of people updating their immunizations records.
In her efforts to secure her code, Szlachta also returned to the vaccination clinic in the Fraser Health authority where she says she was vaccinated in the hope it could help. She says workers at the clinic have sent her information to the health authority, but so far, it has not helped her situation.
The province recommends that people in Szlachta's situation contact Service B.C., though, she says, phone calls to that agency have not helped her access her information.
Szlachta has since contacted her local MLA as a last resort.
"I feel like I'm chasing and I'm not getting any resolution, I'm a single mom. I start to worry about being able to pay my rent," she said.
"I feel angry, frustrated and very let down by the system."
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