Vaccine-seeking B.C. residents turned away at U.S. border
VANCOUVER -- Canadians planning on heading to the U.S. for a COVID-19 vaccination shouldn't count on getting across the border as officials say those seeking their first or second doses will not be granted access into the country.
South Surrey, B.C., resident Sandy Sereda booked a vaccination appointment for Wednesday morning at a Costco in Bellingham, but she and her husband were turned around by a border officer at the Peace Arch crossing.
“We waited for an hour and a half, only for them to tell us no, the vaccine is not considered part of a medical service, and therefore you are denied to go to your appointment,” says Sereda.
While the Canada-U.S. border remains closed to non-essential travel until at least June 21, Canadian health officials have previously said travelling across the border for a COVID-19 shot is considered essential.
CTV News obtained an email from the Public Health Agency of Canada to the president of Ontario’s Windsor Regional Hospital.
In the email, the PHAC states Canadians are permitted to cross the border for COVID-19 vaccinations, and could even be exempt from Canada’s two-week quarantine requirement upon their return if they don’t make any extra stops in the U.S. and have two notes from licensed medical professionals; one confirming their immunization is medically essential, and the other proving that a vaccine was administered in the United States.
“They don’t see it that way at the border,” says Sereda, whose doctor did write her a note saying her second dose is essential.
In a statement to CTV News, U.S. Customs and Border Protection says “Travel for the sole purpose of obtaining a vaccination is not permissible under current travel restrictions.”
Despite this, Canadians in some other provinces have successfully crossed the border, specifically for a COVID immunization. This week, Albertans travelled into Montana for vaccinations after the Blackfeet Tribe offered up their extra vaccine doses.
Sereda says she personally knows people in other provinces who’ve successfully travelled into the U.S. for their shots, and doesn’t understand why it’s so difficult to do the same from B.C.
"Does that mean parts of Canada like Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta can do it, but B.C can't do it," she asked. "Seriously?"
CTV News followed up with PHAC for clarification. Health officials did not advise against travelling south of the line for vaccinations, only saying American border officials ultimately decide who will be granted entry to the U.S. However, PHAC did say anyone who does cross the border strictly for a COVID-19 shot will be required to quarantine for 14 days when they return,
“Quarantine exemptions for travellers returning to Canada … were not intended to be used for those seeking a COVID-19 vaccination," PHAC says in a statement.
“This provision is in place to allow Canadians who are seeking life-saving medical treatment outside of Canada. PHAC will be clarifying the intent of this provision imminently including to medical professional associations and on its website.”
The agency goes on to say COVID-19 vaccines are widely available in Canada.