North Dakota to offer free vaccinations to Manitoba truckers travelling to U.S.

North Dakota will offer free vaccines starting Wednesday to Manitoba truck drivers who transport goods across the border.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum made the joint announcement on Tuesday.

This is the first such program between a Canadian and American jurisdiction, Pallister said.

With help from the Manitoba Trucking Association, Manitoba will identify eligible drivers and work with North Dakota to schedule vaccination appointments during those truckers’ routine trips to the U.S. over the next six to eight weeks.

Roughly 2,000 to 4,000 Manitoba drivers are expected to take part in the program, set to begin Wednesday.

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.

The state will then provide proof of immunization to those who are vaccinated, and share records of immunization with Manitoba.

“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,” said Burgum.

“The timely and effective administration of vaccines is essential for public health and the eventual safe reopening of our shared border.”

No cost

There is no cost to the state or province, as the U.S. government supplies the vaccine and reimburses the costs to administer doses, a news release from the province says.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation’s rest area near Drayton, N.D., will initially serve as the vaccination site, operating from noon to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

“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,” the news release says.

“North Dakota and Manitoba share the fifth-busiest border crossing between the United States and Canada.”

The two governments say they will look at further joint initiatives to vaccinate other essential workers as well.

Manitoba ramped up its vaccination program this week.

Anyone 40 and over is now eligible for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, which is distributed through pharmacies and medical clinics.

For the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the minimum age is 34 for First Nations people and 54 for others.

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