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

Elmer Patzer, who turned 90 this week, celebrated a distanced birthday with a parade at his home. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)
Langley senior celebrates distanced birthday with car parade, mascot

At 90, Elmer Patzer just had his second pandemic birthday

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including South Surrey’s Pacific Highway should ‘not be left behind’

Ribfest 2019. (Aldergrove Star files)
Plans for Langley RibFest shelved for second year in row due to COVID-concerns

50/50 Rotary Lottery to continue for second year, potentially worth $250,000, set for Aug. 19

Bat Packs are the newest addition to the FVRL Playground, and have everything you need to learn more about bats, and track them in your neighbourhood. (FVRL image)
Bat Packs at Fraser Valley libraries come with echometer to track bats

Packs are the newest part of the FVRL Playground inventory

Walnut Grove Secondary Student Anna Pyper’s artwork is a self portrait that focuses on the effects of the pandemic on pizza boxes with their most missed memory of before COVID painted on the inside. (Special to The Star)
Langley students tackle masks and pre-COVID memories with pizza box art project

West Fine Art Show showcasing art class photography, paintings and sculptures until April 30

Surrey RCMP are seeking the public's help to locate three puppies stolen from a South Surrey home on April 10. (Surrey RCMP photos)
UPDATE: 1 of 3 puppies stolen from South Surrey returned to owner

American Bulldog puppy recovered after being sold at Mission car show

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

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

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Everett Cummings in a tribute video posted to dignitymemorial.com.
Mechanic’s death at Fraser Surrey Docks leads to $200K fine for company, union says

Photos of rally outside Surrey court posted on ILWU’s ‘Kill A Worker Go To Jail’ Facebook page

Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng said, in March, the force received a stand-out number of seven reports of incidents that appeared to have “racial undertones.” (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
‘Racially motivated’ incidents on the rise in B.C’s 4th largest city: police

Three incidents in Richmond are currently being invested as hate crimes, says RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng

A still from the video taken of a violent arrest on May 30, 2020 in downtown Kelowna. (File)
Kelowna Mountie charged with assault for caught-on-camera violent arrest

Const. Siggy Pietrzak was filmed punching a suspected impaired driver at least 10 times during an arrest

Most Read