Migrant farm workers transplant jalapeno sprouts from trucks into the tilted soil at a farm. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)

Migrant farm workers transplant jalapeno sprouts from trucks into the tilted soil at a farm. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)

‘They’re afraid’: Coalition sounds alarm over COVID vaccines for B.C.’s migrant workers

Though health ministry says anyone can get vaccinated, critics say barriers are keeping migrants from their dose

People in Canada should have access to the COVID-19 vaccine regardless of their immigration status, advocates say – if not, hundreds of thousands unvaccinated could compromise the country’s attempt at achieving herd immunity.

The Migrant Rights Network fears that because undocumented workers lack access to a Medical Services Plan or worry about their personal information being shared with immigration enforcement agencies they could be excluded from the vaccine rollout.

They should not have to risk detention or deportation to access the vaccine, said Syed Hussan, member of Migrant Rights Network at a virtual press conference on Wednesday (Feb. 25).

The group – along with 269 other stakeholders including doctors, health policy experts, advocacy organizations and faith and labour leaders – signed a letter calling upon federal and provincial governments to guarantee equal vaccine access for those without permanent status.

The letter comes as provinces and territories adopt mass COVID-19 vaccination plans. It includes demands of making vaccinations free and training providers not to require personal information in exchange for receiving a dose.

B.C. migrants with COVID-19 denied universal health care, advocate says

Byron Cruz, with the Vancouver-based organization Sanctuary Health, said thousands of migrant workers that contracted the coronavirus in 2020 were shut out of receiving universal health care.

For farm labourers who came to B.C. on a work permit and became ill, that meant either having to wait a three-month period to access medical services or being repatriated to their origin country while they had the disease.

“Access to health care is often tied to permits for those who come to work or study in a specific capacity,” Cruz explained, adding that conditions have not changed in 2021.

Undocumented workers in construction and cleaning jobs are being denied access to COVID-19 tests because they don’t possess B.C. health insurance, Cruz attested, even mentioning the presence of police at several Metro Vancouver testing sites.

“They’re afraid of going there,” he said of undocumented populations. Cruz said a few workers died last year from complications resulting from the virus.

Health ministry says vaccine available to all, critics disagree

In a written statement to Black Press Media, B.C.’s Ministry of Health said that vaccine eligibility is “not contingent on being registered with B.C.’s Medical Services Plan or if a person is a Canadian resident or citizen.”

The ministry also said public health has been mandated not to share information provided for immunizations with other organizations.

However, Toronto family doctor Dr. Danyaal Raza has witnessed first-hand people being denied the COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario, where eligibility is also not dependent upon one’s possession of a health services card or number.

“Policy announcements aren’t always reflective of what is happening in practice,” Raza said, emphasizing the need for nation-wide education regarding equitable access to the vaccine.

According to B.C.’s health ministry, during the pre-registration process for the vaccine people need to show proof of age and that they are living in the province.

The ministry also said it’s important for inoculated people to follow up with public health for safety reasons and scheduling a second dose.

The Migrant Rights Network estimates that over 1.6-million people in Canada don’t have permanent resident status and says that many of them work in essential jobs in sectors such as health care, cleaning, delivery and agriculture.



sarah.grochowski@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The old Stanley Gordon school in Lake Cowichan. (Lexi Bainas/Gazette file)
Editorial: Old school properties represent potential for our areas

There are opportunities, often sitting right in the middle of our small communities.

Sweet gum trees like this one in City Square will be replaced over the next three years. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Duncan plans big tree replacement project for downtown

Sweet gums in City Square and along Station Street will go over the next three years

Cowichan Valley Capitals defenceman Logan Rands pokes the puck away from Alberni Valley Bulldogs forward Talon Duff. (Elena Rardon/Black Press Media)
Offence sags as Cowichan Capitals reach midway mark

Caps score one goal in three games as pod season continues

BCYP Minister for the Southern Interior, Aislinn Dressler of Fernie said the Youth Parliament being virtual was a great way to learn about how the BC Parliament was operating. (Photo contributed by Aislinn Dressler)
Applications open for Islands Youth Parliament

Applications must be received by April 23

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

A teacher-librarian in Nanaimo was fired in 2019 for checking out an age-inappropriate graphic novel to a student. The discipline agreement was published Wednesday, April 21. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo teacher-librarian fired for checking out too-graphic graphic novel to student

Teacher had been previously disciplined and suspended on two occasions

Aria Pendak Jefferson cuddles ChiChi, the family cat that ran away two years ago in Ucluelet. The feline was missing until Courtney Johnson and Barry Edge discovered her in the parking lot of the Canadian Princess earlier this month. Aria and her parents were reunited with ChiChi in a parking lot in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
An Island girl’s wish is answered as her cat came back

Courtenay family reunited with cat that went missing in Ucluelet in 2019

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Vancouver Island Connector and Tofino Bus is putting a 41-passenger electric bus through its paces in a three-month trial run between Nanaimo and Victoria. (Photo submitted)
Electric bus on trial run serving Victoria-to-Nanaimo route

Vancouver Island Connector and Tofino Bus trying out 41-seat electric coach for three months

The Coastal Fire Centre is looking ahead to the wildfire season on Vancouver Island. (Phil McLachlan – Western News)
Coastal Fire Centre looking ahead at wildfire season on Vancouver Island

‘We’re asking people in the spring to be very careful’

Chum Salmon fry being examined with multiple motile and attached sea lice on Vargas Island. (Cedar Coast Field Station photo)
Study: Tofino fish farm sea lice infestations add fuel to push to remove open pens

Ahousaht First Nation asking for higher standards than what DFO requires

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
“I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident tries to save vehicle from the Columbia River

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

Most Read