St. John's man living in Abu Dhabi unable to visit home, despite having 2 doses of WHO approved vaccine

·3 min read
Jeanne Brown (left) and Matthew Brown have been unable to return to Canada, even after having two doses of a World Health Organization approved COVID-19 vaccine.  (Submitted by Matthew Brown - image credit)
Jeanne Brown (left) and Matthew Brown have been unable to return to Canada, even after having two doses of a World Health Organization approved COVID-19 vaccine. (Submitted by Matthew Brown - image credit)
Submitted by Matthew Brown
Submitted by Matthew Brown

A St. John's man living abroad in Abu Dhabi says he's disappointed he can't visit home as the federal government is, right now, only considering those with vaccines approved by Health Canada to enter the country.

In June the federal government announced vaccinated Canadians would be allowed to forego a mandated hotel stay and 14-day quarantine period upon returning to Canada.

But, for people like Matthew Brown and his wife Jeanne, who both have two shots of the Sinopharm vaccine, they're left off the list.

"We've been following quite closely the media coverage, the different press conferences that government is having and largely following the instructions of the Canadian government as best we can in that, one of them being, take the first dose of vaccine that's available to you," Brown told CBC News.

"Having done just that, taking the only vaccine that was available to us earlier this year, it now means that that vaccine is not approved and we're not able to take advantage of the exceptions that the Canadian government is making for Canadians living abroad."

Brown works in health and safety in the airline industry. He and his wife both received Sinopharm vaccines at the beginning of the year as the United Arab Emirates was quick to jump on vaccine rollout, he said. Their second dose was in February.

Submitted by Matthew Brown
Submitted by Matthew Brown

Brown said the majority of the population in Abu Dhabi have received the Chinese-developed vaccine and it's widely available.

While Sinopharm is approved by the World Health Organization, it is not on Health Canada's list, meaning if Brown wants to go home he will still have to abide by hotel quarantine rules all on his own dime.

"It means a two-week quarantine before even seeing a person you know or love at home. It means an additional two weeks is just not feasible, work wise, for a lot of Canadians abroad," Brown said.

"I would like to see some clarity on what kind of timeline are we're looking at. Will I be able to travel home with this vaccine before the end of this year? Is it something I should just write off for this year and look at 2022?"

Cautious approach

On Monday federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu told reporters the federal government, along with other countries, are "monitoring" WHO vaccine data, adding that Canada will adjust its stance on approved vaccines when Health Canada officials feel comfortable to do so.

"This approach that we're taking is really built on protecting the gains that we've made as a country and using the best possible science and evidence to make these decisions going forward," Hajdu said.

Submitted by Matthew Brown
Submitted by Matthew Brown

But Brown said there's still frustration felt on his side of the world, knowing he can travel to the United States with his current inoculation but not into Canada.

"We consider ourselves very fortunate, but at the same time as time passes on it just gets more frustrating knowing that there's no end in sight for us to feasibly get home," Brown said.

He said he's understanding that those currently living in Canada may not be so eager to welcome in anybody and everybody from across the world with non-Canadian approved vaccines just yet, but added he thinks it's because the vaccines just aren't understood by the federal government.

He's hoping research and decision making is expedited, but by August, when he is able to receive a booster shot, Pfizer could be on the table.

"Obviously we don't want to add risk to anybody, but at the end of the day we'd love to see light at the end of the tunnel in terms of getting back home to see family," Brown said.

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