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Canadians abroad struggling to get vaccinated

Last Updated Jun 15, 2021 at 10:06 pm EDT

As tens of thousands of people in Canada are hoping to book their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, another group of Canadians find themselves at the bottom of the priority list.

Some expats living abroad have no clarity on when and how they will be able to get their COVID-19 vaccines, including Tyler Otto who is currently living in Taiwan.

The 23-year-old is currently living in Taipei, where a lockdown has recently been issued as COVID-19 cases rise. Otto, who is from Edmonton, Alberta, says there hasn’t been much clarity on the vaccine rollout.

“As soon as the vaccines hit the market, I was interested,” says Otto. “Because of the issue of a lot of people not wanting to get vaccinated until this recent outbreak, the government just has not been ordering very much vaccines. Recently I’ve been thinking of going back [to Canada] to get vaccinated.”

However, it’s unclear how long it may take to get both doses. While some parts of the country are working to accelerate second doses to residents, it seems like the majority of Canadians still have to wait months to be fully vaccinated.

“That’s why I’m thinking I should wait it out” Otto says. “If it’s a four-month wait, I would rather just wait the entire time here because maybe in four months, I could just get it here. This is a very big deterrent for me.”

As some Canadians struggle to make that decision, Claire Hudes, an American currently living in South Korea found a way to get vaccinated quicker. The 26-year-old masters student says the vaccine rollout in South Korea has been slow, so she boarded a flight from Seoul to San Francisco three weeks ago to get both shots.

“I’m so excited,” Hudes says, 45 minutes before she received her second vaccine. “I wanted to get vaccinated as soon as possible, I’m really grateful that my parents were willing to have me come home and stay with them for a while so I can get the vaccine and then return to South Korea. So I could have that extra layer of peace of mind that coronavirus would not have as large an impact on my experience anymore.”

Unlike Canada, those in the U.S. only have to wait the recommended three week period to get both doses. The majority of her friends in South Korea, some of whom are Canadian students, have not been able to do that due to the uncertainty around how long they’d have to wait to get a second dose. Hudes is the first one from her friend group who is fully vaccinated.

“I’m so grateful to be able to have done this. I know I’m in a position that not a lot of people might be in,” she says. “I think as foreigners who aren’t in positions of healthcare or any health facing job, it doesn’t seem like we will be top priority anytime soon. No one I know has been vaccinated.”

Hudes paid $950 round trip to be able to return home and booking and getting her vaccine didn’t take too long. She was able to get a same day appointment for her first shot, which took about 15 minutes.

“It was incredibly easy compared to the experiences I heard from my friends in other countries,” she says.

Hudes was able to continue her schooling virtually upon returning to the U.S. Otto, a working model, wouldn’t be able to leave his job for months to return home to be vaccinated and is currently weighing his options.

“I’m at the bottom of the priority list here because I don’t have health insurance, I’m young and I don’t have any health conditions,” says Otto. “Going back will be the only way I can get it.”

CityNews reached out to Health Canada to ask what options Canadians living abroad have when it comes to getting vaccinated, however a spokesperson didn’t provide a response to the questions.

CityNews has also reached out to Global Affairs and is waiting for a response.

Ontario’s Ministry of Health has recommended that people get vaccinated as quickly as possible. The province says Ontarians coming back to the province will have the same access and eligibility for first and second doses that other residents do.

“Individuals who received a COVID-19 vaccine outside of Ontario or Canada are required to provide proof, such as a vaccination receipt or certificate, to their public health unit in order to be registered in the system,” says Bill Campbell, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health. “Once complete, individuals who have only received one dose will be able to book their second dose appointment, when eligible, through the provincial booking system, public health units that use their own booking system or participating pharmacies and primary care settings.”