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Manitobans will have to wait to receive their secure COVID-19 immunization card, after "overwhelming" demand and a shortage of blank, wallet-sized plastic has put the province’s program temporarily on hold.
"There is a limited supply of blank cards at the global level," a provincial spokesperson said Friday in a statement. "The pandemic has had major effects on the supply chain for goods and materials that are not manufactured in this country.
"Additional cards are on order and printing is expected to resume later in the month. Individuals can continue to request their digital and physical cards."
Fully vaccinated Manitobans can request the proof-of-immunization card two weeks after they have received a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
The plastic card displays an individual’s name and a unique QR code that can be scanned by a provincial mobile application to verify vaccination status.
Previously, the province had said Manitobans could expect the card to arrive in the mail within two weeks of making a request.
Manitoba NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara called the delay in issuing immunization cards unacceptable.
"At every step of the way, the PC government has failed to plan ahead for the pandemic. And now, 16 months into the pandemic, the PCs have created yet another roadblock," Asagwara said in a statement.
"We’ve had vaccines in Manitoba for months and yet the PCs failed to secure enough physical immunization cards. Now, seniors and Manitobans who do not have access to a cellphone are not able to use the card they were counting on."
To date, the province says it has printed more than 250,000 physical copies of the secure immunization card that have either been delivered or are on their way to Manitobans.
It was unclear Friday how many requests for physical cards were outstanding. At least 655,000 Manitobans have received two shots of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to provincial data.
In the meantime, people who need the secure immunization card to dine indoors with friends, visit personal care homes and hospitals or attend special events can download the digital version of the card at immunizationcard.manitoba.ca
The digital card, which also includes an individual’s name and QR code, can be saved or screenshot to a smartphone, or printed and presented as proof of immunization.
Vaccination records, which are available online through the Shared Health portal (sharedhealthmb.ca), can also be saved or printed to show proof of COVID-19 immunization where required.
However, Manitobans have also hit snags accessing their vaccine cards after data entry errors and delays meant some immunizations weren't recorded or were recorded incompletely in the province's system.
On Wednesday, officials with the vaccine task force said they were working through the backlog and about one per cent of people who had been vaccinated were still experiencing issues with their record.
The province said Manitobans who do not have internet access can now phone the vaccine hotline (1-844-626-8222) to request a secure immunization card or to ask for a record to be corrected.
As of Friday, 55.2 per cent of eligible Manitobans had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Provincial data showed 75.9 per cent of Manitobans had received at least one shot.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.