Vancouver mom taking 3 generations back home to Greece worried inconsistent proof of vaccination may not be adequate overseas
Michelle Larigakis can’t wait to take her parents back to their favourite restaurant on the Greek island of Skopelos.
“It means a lot to them to go back every summer and to reconnected with family,” Larigakis said, though they weren’t able to travel the past two years.
Her parents are getting older, she said, and this could be one of their final years to make the trip.
So Larigakis has booked flights to Athens next week with her father, Spyros, 91, her mother, Toula, in her 80s, and her sons Julian, 20, and Alexi, 17.
Everyone is fully vaccinated, with Greek authorities either requiring a negative COVID-19 test before arrival, or what its tourism ministry calls a “vaccination certificate issued by a certified authority.”
Everyone has some form of proof, except Toula, who Michelle said lost her written vaccination record card.
Making matters more complicated, while Michelle could download the B.C. Services Card app, go through steps to set up an account, and link it to what’s called her HealthGateway, it turns out Toula could not, because of a glitch with her birthdate in the provincial system.
So Michelle helped her apply for a replacement B.C. Services Card, which won’t arrive for a month or two.
They can’t access Toula’s electronic vaccination records without it.
“It’s not working for us and we are digitally savvy,” Michelle said.
And she’s raising questions on behalf of all international travellers, worried the handwritten B.C. vaccination cards, or the different forms of records, could confuse or might be rejected by the Greek authorities.
“It would be great if there was just a standard, official-looking document,” she said.
Anita Huberman, the CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, agrees.
And for Huberman, it’s more about creating consistency between the provinces and territories so that if businesses ask for proof of vaccination, they’re all looking for the same thing.
On Monday, she sent a letter to provincial and federal officials asking for “a centralized, Canada-wide approach” to immunization proof.
“Ever since the pandemic began, we’ve had a patchwork of solutions, a patchwork of mixed messaging across the country,” Huberman said.
“That’s really confused employers, confused employers.”
While B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said she doesn’t support the idea of so-called vaccine passports within the province, she has previously said she expects one for international travel.
Ottawa hasn’t provided details on when that system could potentially be ready.
An email to Immigration, Refugee, and Citizenship Canada, which is overseeing the development and rollout vaccine passports, was acknowledged, but wasn’t responded to by deadline.
In Victoria, the Ministry of Health told CTV News in a statement it was “working to improve the way that people can easily obtain their COVID immunization records and will have more information on what this will look like available in the coming days.”
In the meantime, the ministry indicated those who had lost their immunization records or weren’t able to access the HealthGateway could request copies by:
- Reaching out to their local health unit if they were immunized at a mass immunization clinic, through their local health unit, or through mobile clinics in their health region.
- Reaching out to their pharmacist if they were immunized at their local pharmacy.
- Reaching out to their community health nurse if they were immunized in a First Nations community.
The ministry also reiterated it’s working with the federal government to ensure “people will be able to travel internationally and their privacy will be protected,” a statement read.
With Michelle’s permission, CTV News reached out to Vancouver Coastal Health Monday morning to ask about obtaining a copy of Toula’s proof of vaccination.
Whether asking questions made any difference, by Monday afternoon, Michelle had copies of both her parents’ records.
“I think it looks official enough,” she said, showing CTV documents that listed names, birthdates, health numbers, plus vaccination dates, products, and lots numbers.
The first thing she plans to do when they arrive in Skopelos?
“Pour my dad a glass of ouzo,” she said.
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