RCMP in northern Alberta are investigating an incident outside a homeless shelter where a man was approached by a stranger with an offer of cash if he would get the COVID-19 vaccine using the stranger’s identification.
Const. Chantelle Kelly said that the incident happened on September 17th at a shelter in Grande Prairie.
“RCMP received a complaint that a male near Wapiti House was approached by an unknown male offering to give him money to get the COVID vaccination under his name.”
According to Kelly, it is still not clear if the shot was administered and the investigation is ongoing. RCMP did not supply any other information on the identities of either man.
Jared Gossen is a project lead at Wapiti House and has worked with the city’s vulnerable population since 2015. He says it is a tight-knit community within the city of just under 70,000. He said he’s concerned about the incident.
“There is always going to be people looking to fraud the system and often vulnerable people are caught in the middle,” he said.
Gossen said there has been steady vaccine uptake among the people they work with but for those living with addiction or dealing with homelessness, it’s often not a top priority.
The staff at Wapiti Centre have also worked with the Northreach Society and its outreach nurses. Gossen said that the team approach has been key to encouraging people to get the shot through conversation and education as well as with onsite clinics.
Alberta Health Services also confirms it is aware of the situation. Spokesperson Kerry Williamson referred to it as an isolated incident.
He said that people are asked to present one form of government identification when receiving their vaccination, though other methods may be used.
Falsifying health records is also an offence under the Health Information Act, said the province previously.
A city spokesperson also said they were aware of the situation but that the RCMP were responsible for looking into it further.
The most recent data on homelessness for the City of Grande Prairie was a point-in-time count completed in 2018. It showed that there were about 230 people experiencing homelessness.