North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister announced the Essential Worker Cross-Border Vaccination Initiative, where North Dakota will administer COVID-19 vaccinations to Manitoba-based truck drivers transporting goods to and from the United States. This is the first such program between a Canadian and American jurisdiction.
With the assistance of the Manitoba Trucking Association (MTA) and its members, Manitoba will identify and co-ordinate with eligible individuals and work with North Dakota to schedule vaccination appointments for truck drivers during their routine trips to the U.S. over the next six to eight weeks (beginning Wednesday, April 21). It is estimated roughly 2,000 to 4,000 Manitoba drivers will take part in this program.
“North Dakota and Manitoba have a long and rich history of friendship and co-operation, and this vaccination initiative is an opportunity to strengthen that bond by offering assistance that will protect public health and the flow of goods and services on both sides of the border,” Burgum said. “With adequate vaccine supplies and all North Dakotans having access to vaccine 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. The timely and effective administration of vaccines is essential for public health and the eventual safe reopening of our shared border.”
The Essential Workers Cross-Border Vaccination Initiative is an opportunity to support Manitoba’s and North Dakota’s integrated economies by co-operating on the vaccination of individuals who work in both jurisdictions. Authorities says it will lay the groundwork for a quick and safe return to open borders and open trade.
The North Dakota Department of Transportation’s rest area near Drayton, N.D., will initially serve as the vaccination site. Vaccinations will take place from noon to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays to accommodate northbound, returning travel by truckers. The location is said to have sufficient space for truck parking, drive-thru inoculation, and 15-minute observation periods.
The North Dakota Department of Health will provide nurses and other staff to administer the first and second doses of the vaccine to provide full immunization of truckers. There is no cost to the state or province.
North Dakota has an online pre-registration system that will be used to limit crowding and lost time for drivers, and aid in the scheduling of staff and delivery of doses. Trucking companies may want to manage vaccine booking in tandem with their driver scheduling. North Dakota will adhere to the recommended dose schedule and will administer both first and second shots to eligible drivers accordingly. As well, a record of vaccinations will be provided to Manitoba for incorporation into provincial database.
“As Manitoba faces the third wave of the pandemic and the significant challenges associated with variants of concern, our number one limiting factor in protecting Manitobans is the availability of COVID-19 vaccines,” Pallister said. “Manitoba is proud to partner with North Dakota on this innovative strategy to provide life-saving vaccines to Manitoba’s essential workers delivering the goods and services Manitobans, Canadians and Americans rely on.
“On behalf of my eligible driving staff and all Manitoba Trucking Association members, I welcome today’s announcement,” said Bernie Driedger, president of Portage Transport Inc. “When it comes to the COVID vaccine the most important question is not where can one get it, but when can one get it? To see Manitoba and North Dakota coming together to creatively collaborate on a vaccination strategy that will expedite the vaccination of Manitoba truck drivers working to or through North Dakota is excellent news. This move protects these important essential workers and their families, while also freeing up vaccination spots back in Manitoba. A genuine win/win. We congratulate our provincial government partners on the initiative they took to make this happen”.
The shared goal of this initiative is to create a model of continental co-operation for others to emulate as we prepare to safely reopen our shared border. Manitoba and North Dakota will consider further joint initiatives to vaccinate other essential workers and Manitobans.
North Dakota and Manitoba share the fifth-busiest border crossing between the United States and Canada, and represents the gateway to economic opportunity and prosperity in the Midwest and Prairies.
Drivers must be able to cross into the U.S. and return to Canada without a requirement to quarantine under federal public health rules;
Drivers will be required to have a valid Manitoba Class 1 license and be on assignment at the time of vaccination;
Eligibility and appropriate use of the initiative will be communicated directly to drivers with the assistance of the Manitoba Trucking Association and its members.