Manitoba COVID-19 vaccine card 'incredible news' to mother, daughter who haven't seen each other in 10 months

Some Manitobans are excited that the recently announced COVID-19 vaccine card will allow them to safely visit with loved ones in health-care facilities.

Fully immunized health-care worker says the process to apply for card was quick, easy, accessible

Manitoba's COVID-19 vaccine card will allow individuals to travel within Canada without having to self-isolate, as well as visit people in health-care facilities assuming both the patient or resident and visitor are fully immunized for the illness. (Song Kyung-Seok/Pool Photo via AP)

Donna Forester is smiling big after hearing Manitobans who are fully immunized for COVID-19 can register for a card that, among other things, would allow her to visit her daughter whom she hasn't seen in almost a year.

Premier Brian Pallister announced Tuesday that an immunization card will be provided to people two weeks after they've received their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The card, of which there will be digital and physical copies available, will allow individuals to travel within Canada without having to self-isolate upon returning to Manitoba. It will also permit visits to health-care facilities, assuming both the patient or resident and visitor are fully immunized for COVID-19.

"It's incredible news," said Forester, whose daughter lives in Riverview Personal Care Home in Winnipeg.

Shawna Forester-Smith, 37, is a resident of Riverview's chronic care unit. She has been able to visit with her husband indoors every day, albeit with restrictions, but she hasn't seen her mother since August of last year. She hasn't seen her father for 15 months.

Prior to the COVID-19 restrictions, Forester was coming in each Thursday to shower her daughter and do her laundry, she said. 

"It's like stripping layers of parenting away from you and particularly when she's not well, which happens a lot with infections," she said, adding that she's thankful for the staff at Riverview.

But in less than three weeks, Forester-Smith's parents will be receiving their second dose of the vaccine. So by mid-July, the family should finally be able to reunite.

"We have been very anxious to get our second dose," said Forester. "I would ask Shawna, oh, about twice a month, 'Can we come and see you? Can we even wave at the window?'

"It's been very, very difficult."

Not being able to have visitors has been tough on Forester-Smith, she said. Visits with her husband have "been a ray of light" but she's concerned it puts a lot of pressure on him as her only in-person social outlet.

LISTEN | Vaccination card will allow mother and daughter to reunite:

Manitobans will be able to visit loved ones at personal care homes, if they have an immunization card from the province showing they are fully vaccinated from Covid-19. CBC's Sam Samson spoke with Shawna Forester Smith and her mother Donna Forester about the possibility of seeing each other in person. 9:19

Forester-Smith expects the vaccine card will improve her mental health and help her have a more positive outlook. It should also allow her to be more stimulated, she said.

"I'm spending a lot of time alone," said Forester-Smith, noting that she's picked up various hobbies and activities to fill the time.

"But having the ability to have visits and to socially interact — because I'm a very social person and I have a very wide circle of family and friends — it's going to cheer me up." 

Forester-Smith is feeling some anxiety about having visitors again, but that's to be expected, she said. Otherwise, she's "overwhelmingly happy."

There's a long list of people waiting to see Forester-Smith, said her mother.

Applying for card quick, easy

Some Manitobans, meanwhile, already have the COVID-19 immunization card. Among them is Heather Hillier, an administrative health-care worker who received her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine months ago.

In addition to the travel and visiting perks, Hillier will be exempt from self-isolation if she is ever identified as a close contact of someone who tests positive for COVID-19. Further benefits will be added later.

"I'm actually pretty excited. Kind of how I felt when I was able to be fully vaccinated," she said, adding that there is also a sense of relief that comes with having proof of immunization.

Hillier's parents are seniors, so she has been keeping her distance from them because she works in health care. She looks forward to being able to visit her parents again, she said.

Patients and residents of health-care facilities haven't been allowed to be surrounded by loved ones, so Hillier is happy for families who will be able to eventually reunite.

Hillier said the process of getting the digital vaccination card was quick and easy.

LISTEN | Vaccination card is one step closer to getting back to normalcy:

Heather Hillier received her second of a COVID-19 vaccination months ago. Now, the health care worker has received a digital vaccination card, which allows certain privileges. Heather spoke with CBC's Sam Samson. 6:26

If someone needed a physical copy of the card, it could be in their mailbox within two weeks, she added.

The concept of an immunization card or passport has been tossed around for months globally.

Seven countries within the European Union have already launched their digital vaccine cards, with the remaining member countries expected to launch theirs next month.

With files from Nicholas Frew and Sam Samson


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