Canadian cross-border truckers based in Manitoba will be able to get COVID-19 vaccines for free in North Dakota starting Wednesday under a joint program with the province and state in the first effort of its kind by governments in the U.S. and Canada.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced a vaccination initiative on Tuesday. It comes as the rate of COVID-19 infections in Canada outpaces that of the U.S. for the first time during the pandemic, while its vaccine rollout continues to lag considerably.
“With adequate vaccine supplies and all North Dakotans having access to vaccines while Canada is dealing with a vaccine shortage, we want to do our part to ensure essential workers from Canada who are frequently travelling through our state are vaccinated,” Burgum said in a statement.
The Essential Worker Cross-Border Vaccination Initiative will allow Manitoba-based truck drivers to get COVID-19 vaccines in ND, the first such program between Canadian and American jurisdictions. Grateful to Premier @BrianPallister for his efforts and continued friendship. 2/2 pic.twitter.com/p8yJzBNCcx— Gov. Doug Burgum (@DougBurgum) April 20, 2021
Officials expect that around 2,000 to 4,000 drivers over six to eight weeks will receive vaccines, which will be administered at a North Dakota Department of Transportation’s rest area near Drayton. The Manitoba Trucking Association will help identify eligible drivers and coordinate the vaccine appointments.
While the initiative is small in scale, both governments said they hope it serves as a “model of continental co-operation for others to emulate.” The U.S. government is paying for the vaccines.
Despite ramping up considerably in recent weeks, Canada’s vaccine rollout remains far behind that of the U.S. Less than 3% of Canada’s population has been fully vaccinated compared to over 25% in the U.S, according to Oxford University’s Our World in Data.
It largely stems from Canada not having enough vaccines, which are coming from Europe and India. At the same time, COVID-19 infections have been surging across the country. Last week, Canada’s per-capita infection exceeded that of the U.S. for the first time.
The U.S.-Canada land border has been closed for nonessential travel since March 2020 to curb the spread of the pandemic. Truckers have been exempt.
Burgum pointed to the vaccine initiative as a step toward making it possible to reopen the border.
“The timely and effective administration of vaccines is essential for public health and the eventual safe reopening of our shared border,” Burgum said.
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