An Albertan man allegedly offered to pay a homeless person to get vaccinated under his name in order to have vaccination status without getting a shot, VICE World News has learned.
According to the RCMP, a man came to Wapiti House, a homeless shelter in Grande Prairie in northwest Alberta, on Sept. 17 and offered money for someone there to get a COVID-19 vaccination using his identity. Two days prior, Alberta announced a vaccine passport system amid a devastating fourth wave of COVID and overwhelming criticism of the government’s handling of the pandemic.
The RCMP confirmed they are investigating the situation, but would not provide details into the terms of the deal—whether the person received the vaccination, how much the individual was paid, or the identities of those involved.
“Someone approached the individual at Wapiti House to offer them money to receive a vaccine,” Constable Chantelle Kelly of the Alberta RCMP told VICE World News.
“According to the case file, witnesses overheard the conversation between the victim and suspect, and reported it. The victim also reported it. The situation is now under investigation.”
Wapiti House also confirmed the incident but declined to confirm the details of whether a person experience homelessness took the deal.
The incident has largely remained quiet between the governing health authority of Alberta—Alberta Health Services (AHS)—and the public.
AHS told VICE World News it’s aware of the situation and is looking into it.
“AHS is aware of an isolated incident where an individual was offered money to receive a COVID vaccination using a false identity,” AHS said.
One worker at Wapiti House, who wished to remain anonymous because they were not in a position to speak for the shelter, confirmed they had heard of the situation.
“There was a lot of talk within the shelter that someone was looking to pay someone to do it [get a COVID-19 vaccine]. And the rumour was that one resident actually did it,” the case worker told VICE World News.
Kathy Lambert, the executive director of Wapiti House, said the shelter is taking on-site measures to prevent future incidents of this nature.
“I’m not sure how something like this can happen. When you get vaccinated, you give your identification. So, we are aware of this case and are working with AHS and the RCMP to investigate the situation,” Lambert said. “We are actively monitoring who is coming on property. But unfortunately, we can’t control what is happening in the community, but we can monitor what happens on property.”
AHS said it takes fraud seriously, and that it vets anyone who comes in for a vaccination by asking them to provide one piece of government-issued identification, such as a health card or a driver’s licence.
If a person doesn’t have government-issued ID, AHS said, other methods may be used to confirm the individual’s identity. What “other methods” means remains unclear.
AHS would not divulge whether this is happening to residents of other shelters. But according to the Wapiti House support worker, double vaccination is quite low at their shelter, so they could see why someone would agree to get vaccinated for someone else.
“Obviously we don’t want fraud to happen, but sometimes people need money, and if they didn’t want to get vaccinated, perhaps that [money] would help,” the worker said.
It’s not surprising to see money being floated around in talks with the COVID-19 vaccine and Alberta—financial incentives have been a core initiative in rousing vaccine hesitancy in the province.
Since August, the Albertan government has offered Albertans $100 if they get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Alberta also implemented a “vaccine lottery” this summer, offering three $1 million prizes to people who had two doses of a COVID vaccine. Other prizes included all-inclusive vacations and Calgary Stampede tickets and packages.
Alberta has one of the lowest rates of fully vaccinated people in Canada, behind Nunavut and Saskatchewan. Only 62 percent of Albertans are fully vaccinated, compared to 71% of the Canadian population.
While Kenney repeatedly said he won’t mandate vaccines, this past month and after initial resistance, he implemented the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP)(i.e., a vaccine passport), which residents have protested as being an infringement on their freedoms.
The program comes on the heels of Kenney dropping most COVID regulations on July 1, and declaring Alberta “open for good.”
Follow Ryan Hook on Twitter.