Canadian and North Dakotan leaders are collaborating in an effort to help Canadian truckers who often work across the border to easily receive COVID-19 vaccinations.
The Essential Worker Cross-Border Vaccination Initiative was recently announced by Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, who, along with Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe, explained that a memorandum had been signed stating that the essential workers delivering goods across the North Dakota-Canada border would be given easy access to the vaccine due to North Dakota’s northern border’s reach across both Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
These efforts come as a step toward improving the wellbeing of truckers, particularly those who work to boost the economy in both North Dakota and across these Canadian provinces.
“With adequate vaccine supplies and all North Dakotans having access to [the] vaccine while Canada is dealing with a vaccine shortage, we want to do our part to ensure essential workers from Canada who are frequently traveling through our state are vaccinated,” explained Burgum. ”The timely and effective administration of vaccines is essential for public health and the eventual safe reopening of our shared border.”
The Drayton rest area, a North Dakota Department of Transportation rest stop off of Interstate 29 located across the Red River from Minnesota, will transition into an official vaccination site for truck drivers and will also offer vaccinations to North Dakota locals who are at least 16 years of age. Drayton is conveniently located 31 miles south of the North Dakota-Canada border, which should make it easy for cross-border truckers to receive vaccines here.
Close to Saskatchewan’s North Dakota border, another site will be initiated for both truck drivers and energy workers local to Saskatchewan who work across the border frequently. The DOT has yet to announce which exact site will serve as this particular vaccination location.
Over the next two months, truck industry experts and government officials will determine which truck drivers are immediately eligible for a vaccination appointment and will schedule those appointments during each trucker’s regular drives across the border. Nurses and staff members will be dispatched by the North Dakota Department of Health to administer both vaccine doses to participating truck drivers; truckers must also be sure to get both vaccine doses in North Dakota.
“The Saskatchewan Trucking Association knows how critical vaccines are to fighting COVID-19, and is pleased to see the partnership between North Dakota and Saskatchewan,” said Saskatchewan Trucking Association executive director, Susan Ewart. “Providing necessary vaccines to professional drivers and oil field workers crossing the border will ensure the safety and protection of these workers as they continue to drive the economy.”
Currently, waiting times for each dose of the vaccine is between three and four months in Manitoba, lamented Terry Shaw, Executive Director of the Manitoba Trucking Association. Additionally, Manitoba vaccine eligibility is only available for certain groups of qualifying people.
This new initiative will allow truck drivers to much more easily receive the vaccines they need, as they can do so during their usual hauling schedules.
“These truck drivers will be completely vaccinated much, much quicker through this North Dakota program than they will in Canada,” said Shaw. “We’re not even at the point in Manitoba where, if you want a vaccine, you can go get it. North Dakota had more vaccines than arms and Manitoba had more arms than vaccines.”
Many truck drivers based in Manitoba also have to travel through North Dakota frequently, Shaw added. Some shipments begin in Alberta or Saskatchewan and still travel through North Dakota on their way to other states.
“Whether it is trade activity with North Dakota or through North Dakota, it’s a very major corridor for our trucking industry here in Manitoba and, quite frankly, in Canada,” he explained. “Manitoba truck drivers find themselves running through North Dakota with great regularity.”
Boosting the health and safety of these truck drivers is especially important for both countries, as the United States considers Saskatchewan and Manitoba to both be vital economic partners–with 217,992 truck crossings occurring at the port of entry in Pembina, North Dakota (which connects directly to Manitoba) and 80,101 truck crossings at the Portal, North Dakota port of entry (which connects directly to Saskatchewan) in 2020, according to data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
“We are grateful to Premier Scott Moe for his partnership on this initiative, which will ensure the safe delivery of goods and services across the border and strengthen the longstanding friendly relationship between North Dakota and our northern neighbors,” said Governor Burgum in a recent tweet.