Proof of immunization creates barriers for some vaccinated Manitobans
Some who have been vaccinated may not have photo ID, phone or card needed to flash QR code
A majority of Manitobans have received two shots of the COVID-19 vaccine now necessary to get into a range of businesses that require proof of immunization, but the system isn't without its barriers — even for the vaccinated.
Those without a fixed address, no smartphone or no internet are facing issues.
Matilda Blacksmith was turned away from a business a few weeks ago, despite being doubly vaccinated.
"The guy said I can't come in," Blacksmith said Wednesday while enjoying some coffee and company at Oak Table. "I said, 'Why not, I got double vaccine?' He says 'it doesn't matter,' he says 'you got to have that card [as] proof,' and I said, 'What card?'"
Oak Table operates out of Augustine United Church in Osborne Village as a gathering place, including for those who are homeless, precariously housed, on social assistance or live with physical and mental disabilities.
The space was forced to shut down its indoor services during the pandemic but recently reopened. Staff there have since helped Blacksmith get her immunization card.
Still, she worries she could be denied access again. She doesn't have a government-issued photo ID, which in many cases patrons are required to present along with the immunization card or QR code on their phone.
"I just can't afford it," Blacksmith said. "I pay bills, I'm a pensioner, I don't get very much so I have to budget."
People living on a tight budget can get help from places like Citizens' Bridge. The organization helps low income Manitobans connect with services and get things like a photo ID.
But to get such an ID, you need another key piece of information handy.
"A birth certificate is a foundational document so this document is what kind of unlocks your ability to be able to get photo ID, whether that's an MPI card, whether that's a … treaty card, whether that's a Métis card," said Kayla Haas, an administration and resource worker with Citizens' Bridge.
Haas said the process of getting a birth certificate can take several months. It also doesn't come free.
Getting the physical immunization card may not come easy for those without a secure address or access to the internet, she said. That means they can't get into coffee shops and restaurants that often offer free Wi-Fi to customers.
"This poses a problem for a lot of people as they're not able to go walk into places," said Haas. "And especially in the winter, how are they going to keep warm?"
She suggested one solution that could help minimize barriers would be to give Manitobans the option of having their photo added to a vaccine card.
Staff with the organization have been stopping by Oak Table recently to help people there get the ball rolling with getting their photo ID.
Oak Table, which has hosted half a dozen vaccine clinics, is happy to have people back inside again and to help connect them with services.
Volunteer co-ordinator Harvey Heather said the provincial government has allowed Oak Table to request access to immunization records for individuals and then print them out to show as proof. But that's not enough for people to get into places that require a secondary piece of photo ID.
"The challenge for many of them is keeping that ID, whether they get lost or stolen," he said.
Heather said Oak Table has offered to make copies of IDs and hang onto them in the event someone loses theirs.
He said the organization doesn't want those without an immunization card — or an ID, phone or other technology many take for granted — to be left behind.
"Imagine for folks that don't have a place to live, they don't have their ID, they don't have phones and computers and telephones," said Heather.
"That's something that I think is going to have to be worked out for all of us."
With files from Holly Caruk