Discussions underway about cross-border vaccination efforts between B.C., Washington State
VANCOUVER -- The day after the fire chief of Point Roberts, Wash., made an appeal to U.S. and Canadian officials to be permitted to give Canadians excess doses of COVID-19 vaccine, B.C.’s top doctor confirmed a number of cross-border discussions have been underway.
“You know the people I’ve been concerned about are cross-border truckers,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday afternoon.
“I’m not aware of any programs that have started at this point,” Henry said. “But that’s something we talk about.”
Saskatchewan and Manitoba have already worked out deals that allow truckers to be vaccinated in North Dakota.
On Thursday, Manitoba’s Premier announced he was finalizing a deal that would allow teachers and school workers to cross the border for jabs and return without quarantine or self-isolation requirements.
In Montana, the Blackfeet Tribe vaccinated upwards of 450 Albertans, including First Nations members, within the last week at a mobile clinic set up on the U.S. side of the Carway border crossing.
Christopher Carleton, the Point Roberts fire chief, wrote a letter to elected officials in B.C. and Washington State and asked for their assistance in helping get excess doses in his community into the arms of Canadians in the Lower Mainland.
“My hope would be first and foremost to vaccinate any dual citizens, American citizens that are on the Canadian side,” Carleton told CTV News Vancouver.
According to the U.S. Federal Voting Assistance Program, in 2016, there were an estimated 183,155 U.S. citizens of voting age living in Metro Vancouver alone.
Carleton added that the jabs could be given without Canadians leaving their cars, eliminating the need to quarantine when returning to Canada.
The Canada Border Services Agency told CTV News there are exemptions from arrival testing requirements and 14-day quarantine, including when a traveller has sought essential medical services abroad and has “written evidence from a licensed health-care practitioner in the foreign country who indicated that the services or treatments were provided in that country.”
A spokesperson did not answer a question about whether the agency had been specifically approached by provincial officials to inquire about cross-border vaccinations along the 49th parallel.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Washington State Department of Health pointed to unmet demand, with only 29 per cent of the state fully vaccinated, and more than 70 per cent of those eligible expressing a desire to receive their doses.
“At this time, we do not have specific plans to do a program similar to ones happening in North Dakota or Montana,” wrote public information officer Shelby Anderson.
Back in Victoria, Dr. Henry indicated there have been discussions at the political level.
She also pointed to how the town of Hyder, Alaska, had recently shared vaccines with its B.C. neighbour, Stewart.
A spokesperson for Premier John Horgan confirmed “a staff call is being scheduled” between the premier’s office and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s office in the next couple of days, though it’s unclear if this specific topic will be raised.
Late Thursday afternoon, Inslee's Executive Director of Communications, Tara Lee, told CTV News: "At this point we are focused on getting as many Washingtonians as possible vaccinated. We are hopeful that at a certain point we can help our neighbors and friends."