Montreal

Côte-Saint-Luc launches program to help seniors access their digital proof of vaccination

In an effort to reach out to those seniors who might be having trouble, the city of Côte Saint-Luc is spearheading a campaign to help older residents access their digital proof of vaccination in the form of a QR code.

Seniors' advocate worries about how user-friendly vaccine passport system will be

Côte Saint-Luc mayor Mitchell Brownstein says he hopes technology won't be a barrier for seniors who want to access their QR codes. (Sudha Krishnan/CBC)

In just three days, Quebec's vaccination passport will come into effect, but at least one seniors' advocate is concerned about just how user-friendly the system will be for older Quebecers, who may not be as familiar with the technology.

In an effort to reach out to those seniors who might be having trouble, the city of Côte Saint-Luc is spearheading a campaign to help older residents access their digital proof of vaccination in the form of a QR code.

Côte Saint-Luc resident Myer Bloom is double vaccinated, but he owns a flip phone, not a smartphone.

That makes downloading the province's proof of vaccination app a challenge.

To help people like Bloom, the city of Côte Saint-Luc is offering a new service where people can call the library, go there in person, or visit the parks and recreation office to get help with downloading their QR code, or getting a printed copy.

For his part, Bloom said the help is appreciated.

"[It's a] wonderful thing for senior citizens and it makes it a lot easier that way."

Mitchell Brownstein, mayor of Côte-Saint-Luc, said that his community has the highest percentage of seniors in the province, and he wants to make sure those who are fully vaccinated can still access the services covered by the vaccination passport.

He said seniors who were feeling isolated during the pandemic are looking forward to enjoying meals out at restaurants and other events this fall, and will feel even more comfortable doing so knowing that everyone in the room is double vaccinated.

Brownstein says he doesn't want technology to be a barrier that stands in the way for seniors.

"If they don't have children or a friend that can help them, we at the library will make sure we can help them do it," Brownstein said. "We've been helping our seniors throughout the pandemic and this is just one more way."

Quebec's VaxiCode app stores vaccine passports, which are scanned at non-essential businesses to permit entry. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

This comes as Quebecers aged 13 and older will need to show proof of vaccination starting Sept. 1 to access some non-essential businesses or events in the province.

This includes festivals, gyms, sports venues and training facilities. Restaurants and bars will require a passport, even to sit on terrasses, but not for takeout.

Other places requiring passports include casinos, bingo halls, bowling alleys, amusement parks, fairs, marathons, escape rooms and zoos. A full list of places and events where the vaccine passport will be required is available on the province's website.

Ruth Pelletier, founder of Seniors Action Quebec, told CBC that making the system digital could pose a problem for some people who are less tech-savvy.

"Not everybody is computer-literate. Even I, who can do a fair amount of things on a computer and iPhone, I'm a little concerned about it," she said.

Pelletier said she supports the implementation of the vaccine passport, but wants to make sure seniors don't get left behind.

"I think it's a good idea to make a printed copy available for people who don't have a computer," she said. 

Pelletier added that a detailed guide or online video could help teach seniors how to access the technology on their own.

The city of Côte Saint-Luc isn't the only organization offering to help seniors prepare to show their QR codes.

The regional health authority for West Central Montreal says people can go to Decarie Square or the Park Extension vaccination centre to get help downloading their digital document.

Lucie Tremblay is the director of vaccination and nursing at the CIUSSS West Central of Montreal. (CBC)

Lucie Tremblay, director of vaccination and nursing for the CIUSSS West Central, said people can also call the COVID-19 hotline, 1-877-644-4545, and someone will walk them through the steps to download the code.

Tremblay said they have increased the amount of staff available to answer calls in order to help people who are trying to get organized in time for Sept. 1.

She added that anyone who comes to a vaccination centre for help will have to show ID to ensure no one tries to access someone else's digital proof.

Tremblay added that people can also call their hotline to have the QR code mailed to them. However, she warned that people using a print out of their QR code need to make sure it doesn't get too wrinkled.

"Because if the QR code is folded, it's going to be a little bit harder to read it. So it's very important to keep it straight," she said.

With files from Chloë Ranaldi

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