A new secure immunization card confirming full immunization against COVID-19 will mean Manitobans with two shots can travel within Canada without quarantining on their return, and enjoy expanded visits at hospitals and personal care homes, Manitoba’s premier says.
The new cards will be available to anyone with a Manitoba health card who applies 14 days after getting their second shot, Brian Pallister announced Tuesday.
“Manitobans have told us that getting back to the things they love and miss is one of the biggest incentives to getting vaccinated,” Pallister said in a release.
“Getting vaccinated and following public health orders to protect each other and our health-care system is the fastest way to save our summer and get back to doing some of the things we love and see the people we miss.”
The cards, which will be available in both a physical and digital format, will include the person’s first and last name as well as a QR code, which when scanned, will confirm vaccination status. The cards will include no personal health information, Pallister said.
Manitobans can apply for the cards through the province’s website or by calling the insured benefits branch of Manitoba Health and Seniors Care at 204-786-7101 or 1-800-392-1207.
The province says digital cards will automatically be available to those who qualify, while the physical card should arrive by mail within 14 days.
Pallister said the expanded visits at health-care facilities, including hospitals and personal care homes, will be available if both the patient/resident and visitor are fully vaccinated. He said the benefit is expected to to be extended to health-care facility visitation in the coming week.
Those who are fully vaccinated are already exempt from having to self-isolate if identified as a close-contact of a COVID-19 case, with approval from public health.
Pallister left open the possibility of using the cards to also determine access to major sporting events, museums and other facilities. He said there would be more details on what big-crowd events might be allowed later this week, when his Progressive Conservative government announces its pandemic reopening plan.
The government floated several possibilities in an online survey last week. Most of the respondents who were vaccine-hesitant said their minds would not be changed if being fully vaccinated meant they could go to concerts, sporting events, gyms and hospitals.
Pallister said he and other premiers have discussed the possibility of recognizing COVID-19 immunization records from each other’s provinces but the discussion was in its early stages.
“We are all eager to be able to travel, visit family and friends, and enjoy the many freedoms we have taken for granted and missed these many months,” he said.
As of Monday, 946,611 first and second COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Manitoba.
According to a provincial website tracking vaccinations, just shy of 69 per cent of eligible Manitobans 18 and over have received at least one shot, as have 66 per cent of those 12 and over.
But not all Manitobans have been as enthusiastic about the shots.
The RM of Stanley, in southern Manitoba, for instance, has a 14.9 per cent vaccination rate.
The province launched a million-dollar grant program last week in an effort to combat vaccine hesitancy.
The province will offer grants of up to $20,000 each to community groups, local sports teams, arts organizations and religious groups to promote vaccinations.
The money could be used for anything from sending out reminders to get a dose to offering prizes to people who get the shot, Pallister said.
Pallister had hinted the government may look at offering more vaccine incentives — directly to people — in the future.
Manitoba expanded eligibility for second doses Monday. Anyone who received a first dose on or before May 1 can now book a second shot, up from April 25.
All Manitobans 12 and over are currently eligible to book their first-dose appointments.
Health officials have said those making appointments need to know which vaccine they first received, and the date the dose was given.
Vaccination appointments can be made by calling 1-844-626-8222 (1-844-MAN-VACC) or visiting the province’s website.
— with files from The Canadian Press
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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