This week, the world’s longest undefended border witnessed a beautiful sight. Hundreds of Canadians, some of whom slept overnight in their cars, drove into Montana and got a shot of vaccine from our neighbours.
Thanks to the generosity of Montana’s Blackfeet Nation, which donated the doses rather than seeing them go to waste, Albertans were able to briefly roll into the U.S., get a jab, and then turn around and re-enter Canada, without need to quarantine.
Thank you, United States of America. Can we have some more, please? There should be scenes like this playing out from Atlantic to Pacific. But there aren’t.
For example, across the river from Detroit in Windsor, Ont., Mayor Drew Dilkens and Windsor Regional Hospital chief executive officer David Musyj have been trying to find a way to get Michigan’s many unused shots into eager Canadian arms.
Mr. Dilkens says multiple Detroit pharmacists have offered up scads of doses. He’s proposed sending buses – Windsor runs a cross-border municipal bus line – to an underused mass vaccination clinic in downtown Detroit or setting up an injection site a few blocks away, in the customs plaza parking lot on the U.S. side. Canadians would take a five-minute drive, get jabbed without even officially entering the U.S. and immediately return to Canada.
“We’re not asking to send a man to the moon,” Mr. Dilkens says. “I’m talking about a one-kilometre bus ride.”
Or, to make things even simpler, Mr. Musyj has applied to ship thousands of unused doses from Michigan to Ontario.
So far, none of that is happening. Individual Americans want to help, but Washington isn’t engaged, so the American bureaucracy isn’t moving. And the Trudeau government has appeared indifferent, or worse, to efforts to get Canadians vaccinated through U.S. sources. The first initiative of this kind, to vaccinate Manitoba truckers in North Dakota, was negotiated not by Ottawa, but by the provincial government in Winnipeg.
The Trudeau government is letting slip an opportunity to boost Canada’s high and rising vaccination rate. Millions of people are waiting for a shot up here, and millions of doses are looking for a home down there. Problem and solution live right next door.
The U.S. has a large and growing supply of vaccines, but there’s widespread vaccine hesitancy, and even hostility. Despite the U.S. having taken delivery of far more vaccine, only 47.9 per cent of Americans had received a first dose as of Wednesday, compared with 47.2 per cent of Canadians.
And whereas the number of jabs in the U.S. has been falling for weeks, Canada’s rate is rising. We’re now vaccinating almost 1 per cent of the population per day, nearly all first shots, while the U.S. is vaccinating at about half that rate, with the accent on second shots.
Even as many Americans turn up their noses, Canadians continue to chase vaccines like they’re rare luxury goods. As a result, the share of Canadians with at least one shot is going to pass that of the U.S. by the end of this week.
Albertans are lining up to get vaccinated in Montana – even though Alberta’s level of vaccination is already higher than Montana’s. They have more doses; we have more willing arms. Just 33 per cent of residents in Wayne County, home to Detroit, have received their first shot. In Windsor, the figure is nearly 48 per cent, and climbing fast.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has talked about a “one-dose summer” and a “two-dose fall.” On current vaccine supply schedules, both are easily achieved. But why not aim higher? Let’s get more people vaccinated, sooner, avoid more hospitalizations and safely reopen the economy, sooner.
The only obstacle is a shortage of something our neighbours have in abundance, but aren’t using. There has to be a way to do a big deal to send some of that surplus vaccine to Canada. Or to do many small deals, on the Blackfeet model.
Why not a mass vaccination clinic in the International Peace Garden? It straddles the Manitoba-North Dakota border, and visitors can enter from either side to wander the shared grounds – without ever officially crossing the border.
What about the similar Peace Arch Park, which lies half in suburban Vancouver and half in Washington state?
To quote Mr. Dilkens, we’re just asking for “scraps that they have left over and that they’re not using.”
America, if you’re not going to finish what’s on your plate, pass it over. We’re still hungry.
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