Manitoba snowbird Barb Brako has been fully vaccinated since late February, but is not yet counted among the almost 700,000 Manitobans who have thus far received a COVID-19 shot.
Brako, 69, and her husband, Ryan, were both fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in the United States earlier this year, while living at their winter home in Fort Myers, Fla.
The Winnipegger who splits time between the Florida coast and Lake of the Woods, said getting vaccinated in the States was a breeze: her name was called more than two months ahead of counterparts in Manitoba.
Many of her Canadian friends in the U.S. also took the opportunity to get the jab and the accompanying proof of immunization card, she said Thursday.
When the couple returned this spring, Brako endeavoured to get their immunization status on the record in Manitoba.
First, by asking public health staff who supported them during their quarantine period for direction; later, via her doctor, by calling Health Links and an Access clinic — to no avail.
Brako said fellow snowbirds elsewhere in Canada have successfully updated their immunization status with their home provinces, but in Manitoba, the process is not advertised and is cryptic and confusing.
"The big concern is I want my husband and I in the stats, because right now they’re saying 60 per cent of adults have had at least the first one (dose), but with all our (snowbirds) stats, it would be higher," the retiree said.
"I want that Manitoba-Ontario border open."
“The big concern is I want my husband and I in the stats, because right now they’re saying 60 per cent of adults have had at least the first one (dose), but with all our (snowbirds) stats, it would be higher." ‐ Barb Brako, snowbird
While Manitoba has yet to release a pandemic recovery plan tied to vaccination rates, other Canadian provinces have already started acting on theirs.
In Saskatchewan, public health has determined some restrictions on restaurants and bars, places of worship, and gathering sizes can be lifted, after 70 per cent vaccination coverage of the population 40 years of age or older was reached. That target was hit May 9. The changes come into effect next week.
According to the Manitoba government, people who have been vaccinated out of province must report their immunization status to their local public health office to become part of the official statistics.
"For those who have been vaccinated outside of Manitoba, they can present proof of vaccination to their local public health office," a spokesperson for the government said in a statement to the Free Press.
"The information gets entered into (the public health information management system) from there."
The spokesman said the province did not have data readily available on how many Manitobans have been vaccinated out of province and have reported such information to the government.
Brako said she would take it upon herself to share the information about the government’s process to record out-of-province COVID-19 vaccinations with her fellow Manitoba snowbirds.
"Why did it take me pursuing it to get this information? It wasn’t clear from the beginning. They knew we were all coming home," Brako said.
At this time, only vaccines approved for use in Canada can be recorded in the health information system, though the province is developing a process to record other vaccine types, the Manitoba spokesperson said.
Ensuring COVID-19 immunization records are up-to-date will become increasingly important for people vaccinated outside of the province, as the second-dose campaign in Manitoba gains momentum.
Earlier this week, public health officials said, in most cases, fully vaccinated people will no longer have to go into self-isolation if they are exposed to the novel coronavirus. (As long as they are symptom-free and do not have a health condition that could impact effectiveness of the vaccine.)
Manitoba public health officials are currently working on other policies that will take into consideration immunization status.
However, when it comes to managing COVID-19 contacts and exposures, public health will consider vaccine status if it’s recorded in the province’s health information management system.
As of Thursday, 92,906 people in Manitoba have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to provincial data.
Of the population 12 or older, 59 per cent have been vaccinated with at least one dose. For 18-plus, 62.7 per cent of Manitobans have been immunized.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.