Manitoba is beginning to roll out immunization cards for people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, allowing them to travel all across Canada without needing to isolate when they come home.
The cards were announced June 8 in a press conference by Premier Brian Pallister, who said the cards will provide one of the first major benefits for fully vaccinated Manitobans. The card will allow for free interprovincial travel out of Manitoba without any need for isolation on arrival, along with further access to visiting loved ones in health care facilities and care homes. Card holders will also be exempt from having to self-isolate if someone close to them tests positive for COVID-19.
Pallister said the issuing of the cards will be part of the province's ongoing recovery from the third wave of COVID-19, which has seen variants of concern invade the province, has led to thousands of new infections and has stretched Manitoba's hospitals and intensive care units to a near breaking point.
"Our duty isn't over yet. We need all Manitobans to continue to do two key things - follow the public health orders and get a vaccine as soon as possible. The sooner we do those two things, the sooner we can get COVID-19 down and the faster we can begin to reopen our economy and get back to doing some of the things we love and seeing some of the people we miss," said Pallister.
The cards will only be available to people when they are considered fully vaccinated - two weeks after their second vaccine dose. To be eligible to receive a card, recipients also have to have a Manitoba health card. Applications for the cards can be made at immunizationcard.manitoba.ca - once a person fills out the form and meets all criteria, they will receive access to a digital card and can request having a physical card sent to them.
“Until all public health restrictions are lifted, Manitobans will receive certain benefits with this card,” said Pallister, holding up one of the prototype cards and saying the cards are meant to be a temporary measure until all health orders can be eased.
“With this card, you’ll be permitted to travel within Canada without having to self-isolate on your return to Manitoba. You’ll be exempt from the self-isolating requirements and if you’re deemed a close contact by public health, you won’t need to self-isolate.”
The cards themselves, according to the province, will not include any personal health information or data - just the person's first name, last name and a QR code that, when scanned, will prove the holder has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The card won't share information like a person's provincial health card number, when they received their doses, what kind of doses they received or other vaccine-related information - that information can only be accessed by the recipient themselves through the provincial government's immunization record website.
“Vaccines are how we get our lives back – both in the short term and the long term,” said Pallister, who added he will get his own second dose next week.
“Getting a vaccine is really important, right now, for many reasons, but I’ll share three with you – to protect our health care symptoms so it can care for COVID-19 patients and for everybody else... for small businesses, the business owners and the Manitobans who depend on those jobs they provide, for all of us who depend on their goods and services... and for our freedoms, the freedoms we took for granted until about a year and a half ago. We need those freedoms back.”
Cardholders who have children – who as of June 8, cannot receive a vaccine dose if they are under age 12 – will be able to travel with their children and the kids will not need to self-isolate.
As of June 8, 67 per cent of all eligible people living in the Flin Flon/Snow Lake/Cranberry Portage/Sherridon health district have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Almost 20,000 people in the Northern Health Region (NHR) have received a second dose of COVID-19.
People without internet access who wish to have a card can call the benefits branch of Manitoba Health and Seniors Care at 1-800-392-1207 or (204) 786-7101 to receive their card.