Snowbird raising concerns over how Manitoba tracks out-of-country vaccinations

Empty vials of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine lie in a box during a vaccine campaign at the Vaccine Village in Ebersberg near Munich, Germany, Saturday, May 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

A snowbird who got both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine south of the border is questioning how the government is keeping track of out-of-country immunizations.

Karen Smith was wintering in Arizona and decided to get both doses while she was there.

"I wasn't going to do it, but then all my friends got the shot and talked me into it," Smith said. "I went through the process and was in and out of there within a half-hour."

She noted the second dose took a little longer at the drive-thru vaccine site in Arizona since it was a bit busier.

Smith returned to Canada in April, self-quarantining and testing negative for the virus several times.

She said since returning, the only person to ask her about the vaccine was a nurse who came to visit her during her stay-at-home period.

Wanting the vaccine to show up on her record, she tried calling Health Links but hung up after waiting on hold.

"I tried calling Health Links to find out the procedure, but after being on hold for more than half an hour, I did not want to tie up the line when I am sure there were people with more critical issues," Smith said.

After having trouble trying to find out how to get the vaccine on her health record, Smith worries the government isn't keeping track of out-of-country vaccinations.

"I don't know how many others are out there who haven't been registered," she said. "If they are looking for a certain percentage for us (to be vaccinated) to reopen, this information has to be gotten."

Smith said the province needs to know about out-of-country vaccinations so it can provide accurate info.

"We have to make sure the people who were vaccinated outside Manitoba get on record somehow, so it gives a more accurate picture," she said.

Smith also worries that not having the vaccine in her health file could be a problem if an emergency were to happen.

In a statement to CTV News, the province says those vaccinated outside of Manitoba can present proof of vaccination to their local public health office. The office will then enter the information into the Public Health Information Management System (PHIMS).

For those who received vaccines not currently approved by Health Canada, the province said a process is under development.

The province also noted that public health officials or others doing contact tracing, use the vaccination data as reported in PHIMS to determine if an identified close contact can be exempted from self-isolation requirements.

As for Smith, she just wants her shot recorded and all eligible people to get vaccinated.

"All I had was a sore arm," she said. "If you've got the opportunity to go, I suggest and recommend you go."