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

Vanderhoof municipal office sign on Burrard Avenue. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Vanderhoof council discuss requests from NWRI, airport, BC Wildfire

District of Vanderhoof held their regular public meeting of council on April… Continue reading

The property on which a residential school (pictured) that was torn down years ago in Lower Post is to be the location of a cultural centre. (Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre photo)
Lower Post residential school building to be demolished, replaced with cultural centre

Project to be funded by federal and provincial governments, Daylu Dena Council

To send in Letters to the Editor, email aman.parhar@ominecaexpress.com
Letter: Increased aggression towards staff at Omineca Medical clinic

Dr. Davy Dhillon writes letter on behalf of the clinic

Basin Snow Water Index map for Apr. 1, 2021. (BC River Forecast Centre photo/Lakes District News)
Snowpack above normal for Upper Fraser West basin

Snowpack assessments for early April reveals above normal levels for northwestern British… Continue reading

Four young women prepare to model Magic Wand dresses at a fashion show. Magic Wand provides grad dresses and tuxedos for a nominal fee. (Submitted File Photo)
Nominations available for Cindrella Dreams Program in Vanderhoof

New organizer excited to help graduates with formal wear

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Top doctor warns B.C.’s daily cases could reach 3,000 as COVID hospitalizations surge

There are more than 400 people in hospital, with 125 of them in ICU

The father of Aaliyah Rosa planted a tree and laid a plaque in her memory in 2018. (Langley Advance Times files)
Final witness will extend Langley child murder trial into May or June

Lengthy trial began last autumn with COVID and other factors forcing it to take longer than expected

The corner of 96th Avenue and Glover Road in Fort Langley now has traffic signals, and new “touchless” signal activation buttons. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Busy Fort Langley intersection gets ‘touchless’ crosswalk signals

The new traffic light started operation in April

A crossing guard stops traffic as students wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 arrive at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-infected students in Lower Mainland schools transmitting to 1 to 2 others: data

Eight to 13 per cent of COVID cases among students in the Lower Mainland were acquired in schools, B.C. says

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch # 91, is disappointed the Legion does not qualify for COVID financial assistance from the provincial government. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C.’s pandemic aid package passing Legion branches by

Federal non-profit status stymies provincial assistance eligibility

Latest modelling by public health shows cases generated by COVID-19 infections into places where it can spread quickly. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Industrial sites, pubs, restaurants driving COVID-19 spread in B.C.

Infection risk higher in offices, retail, warehouses, farms

Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller said it would be “very challenging and not very safe” for him and his teammates to play as scheduled on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canucks’ return to ice postponed again after players voice COVID health concerns

Friday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers was called off after the team met virtually with the NHLPA

B.C. Attorney General David Eby, Minister Responsible for Housing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. announces $2B for affordable, middle-income family home projects

HousingHub financing to encourage more developers, groups – with low-interest loans – to build affordable homes

Most Read