Are Vaccinations Luck of the Draw?
By Jaqueline Lisbona
Image via CTV News Montreal
On Wednesday, April 21 I arrived at the MUHC Glen hospital for my first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Armed with my printed offer of employment from my camp in one hand, and my Medicare card in the other, I stood squarely on the red circles on the floor. As I approached the front desk, I handed the nurse my proof of eligibility and my card was stamped and ready to go. However, right as I picked up my documents, a supervisor interjected and asked me why I was there.
I explained that I had been hired at an overnight camp in Quyon. She told me that I wasn’t eligible to receive the vaccine because camps only start in three months. She said to come back when my age group window is open and to “wait my turn.” This came as a surprise seeing as Legault announced that people who are primary and secondary school staff, public safety workers, slaughterhouse workers, mining workers and staff in childcare facilities are eligible to receive a vaccine. This information can be found on the Clic Santé website. I seemingly fell under this category, so what was the problem?
There is an inconsistency in vaccine eligibility among the young adult age group. Some have successfully received the vaccine at various locations including the Glen, Palais de Congrés and Décarie Square, and passed through no questions asked, while others showed the exact same documentation and were denied. This begs the question: why are people with the same proof of eligibility receiving different treatment?
After speaking with people about their vaccine experience, it is apparent that the rules are unclear. Whether or not a person gets the vaccine is purely at the discretion of each individual worker. Emma Grover, a second semester Social Science student at Dawson is working at an overnight camp in the Laurentians this summer. Her vaccination appointment was at Palais De Congrès where she breezed right through and was back in her car in less than 30 minutes. She explains that she didn’t experience any issues. “All they asked was for me to show them my offer of employment and my Medicare card,” she says, “then my card was stamped, and I sat down to receive my vaccine.”
On the contrary, a Marianopolis student, who is working at the same overnight camp as I am and has asked to remain anonymous, was rejected from two different sites. “The first time I went to my vaccination appointment at the Palais de Congrès I showed my documents and they told me I wasn’t eligible because it is only for people who are currently working.” They also describe the environment as unwelcoming, and they were receiving mean looks from those who were waiting in line. “I went home and rebooked my appointment on Clic Santé for the following day at the Glen where I was denied again after begging the nurse.” They recall the nurse denying them again because their age group was not yet eligible and camp employment hasn’t started.
Why are there no criteria to check off before letting people through? And if the vaccines are for people currently working in childcare, why are so many of those workers being rejected? Second semester Health Science student Sahra Zimmer is a lifeguard and swim instructor. Her boss told her that she was eligible to be vaccinated as long as pay stubs were provided. Several of her colleagues were vaccinated while Zimmer was turned away from both the Glen and Decarie Square even with the same documentation as her colleagues. Zimmer was in luck on her third try, when she finally received her vaccine at Palais de Congres. There have also been instances of non-essential workers receiving left- over doses usually around the later parts of the day. Second semester Child Studies student Madi Farkas recalls going to Decarie Square around 8pm. It took her a total of 30 minutes to wait in line, receive the vaccine and wait the mandatory 15 minutes after receiving it. “It was easy, fast and I wasn’t questioned once.”
In the government's haste to get through the pandemic, the rules on how we get there are disjointed, circuitous and often illogical. While Clic Santé may claim to be a straightforward path to the holy grail of vaccination, in reality, the path of vaccination is really survival of the fittest.