Community groups sound the alarm on upcoming implementation of vaccine cards in BC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 1, 2021


28 health and human rights groups say vaccine card plans intensifies discriminations against already marginalized groups

Vancouver, unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), səlil̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) Nations – Today, 28 organizations from the healthcare, harm reduction, migrant justice and human rights sector have released their response to the August 23 announcement that the Province of BC is set to implement vaccine cards, effective September 13. These organizations have written to the Provincial Health Officer (PHO) and Minister of Health to express serious concerns regarding this practice, and its impact on a range of disenfranchised community members.

Areas of concern include:

  1. Access for undocumented migrants and other migrants who are denied MSP
  2. Access for low-income people without government-issued identification
  3. Access for people who use drugs 
  4. Access for people who cannot be vaccinated due to complex health conditions
  5. Access for people whose government name is inaccurate

The joint letter to the PHO and Minister of Health includes 11 recommendations to improve the rollout of the vaccine card and any future public health mandates.

Concerns about the exclusionary impact of a vaccine card

Implementing the vaccine card fails to account for the diverse needs of people who utilize a variety of public, private, and communal spaces who will face legitimate barriers to accessing a vaccine card. These people already face adverse consequences associated with the pandemic, as noted by the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner in a July 2021 report entitled “. A human rights approach to proof of vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Given the ongoing failure to undertake comprehensive outreach to communities facing barriers within the medical system, a vaccine card requirement presents an additional exclusionary measure, in addition to existing concerns.

Reliance on identification documents, coupled with online registration systems exacerbates the social exclusion that impoverished residents of BC already face.

Rowan Burdge, Provincial Director at the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition highlights the concerns raised, regarding the use of a vaccine card:

Reliance on identification documents, coupled with online registration systems exacerbates the social exclusion that impoverished residents of BC already face. We encourage the PHO and the Province to develop public health guidelines rooted in inclusion, equity, and universal services, recognizing that we are in the midst of two serious pandemics. Without adequate protections for people based on social conditions, the use of a card will likely further disenfranchise people who already navigate tremendous barriers in their daily lives.

The PHO must work with community-based organizations to develop policies that reflect the needs of people with precarious status.

Ingrid Mendez, Executive Director at Watari Counselling and Support Services highlights the concerns raised by people with precarious status:

Throughout COVID-19, community members who access programming at Watari have shared barriers to meeting public health guidelines and policies, including issues accessing the vaccine itself. We have organized clinics specifically for people who are not enrolled in MSP to ensure they can get the vaccine. Now, the proposed vaccine card will only be available to people who are enrolled in MSP. The PHO must work with community-based organizations to develop policies that reflect the needs of people with precarious status. Any vaccine card must include a plan for people with precarious immigration status and undocumented individuals.

While the Province has declared that the use of a vaccine card will only apply to “non-essential” activities, the considerations on people who experience poverty, precarious status, disability, and other intersecting oppressions cannot be treated as an afterthought.

Our neighbours, especially unhoused neighbours, also rely on access to malls, fast food outlets, and other "non-essential" services to meet their everyday needs.

q, an organizer with the Chilliwack Free Fridge shares their perspective:

Chilliwack Free Fridge is a mutual aid project by and for people in our community. We know that food security is a major issue that we and our neighbours face, especially those without ID documents. These documents are difficult to access, due to a number of factors, including government office and procedural inaccessibility, and loss of belongings due to housing insecurity. We know that our neighbours, especially unhoused neighbours, also rely on access to malls, fast food outlets, and other "non-essential" services to meet their everyday needs. This reliance already leads to them being targeted and harassed in public spaces. Implementing a vaccine card adds another barrier to their lives that quickly constellates into an expanding number of related barriers. Public health includes the health of minoritized groups and therefore needs to account for human and societal variation. Public health policy needs to reflect the needs of people on the ground and recognize specific needs and barriers that some populations face, and others do not.

Media Contact

To arrange an interview with a signatory please contact Sozan Savehilaghi:

[email protected] (preferred)
Direct: 604-255-9700 ext. 154

 

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Background information & documents

Joint Response to BC’s Public Health Order Regarding “Proof of Vaccination”
https://www.pivotlegal.org/response_to_proof_vaccination

On September 1, 2021, a group of 28 organizations released an open letter to the Provincial Health Officer and the Minister of Health outlining their concerns, related to the announcement of a provincial vaccine card program.

B.C. launches proof of vaccination to stop spread of COVID-19
https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2021HLTH0053-001659

A news release from the Province of BC on August 23, 2021, specifies that starting September 13, 2021, proof of vaccination will be required in BC for people attending certain social and recreational settings and events.

Housing Justice for all.