Cross-border tunnel vaccinations for Canadians, administered by pharmacists on the other side of the border, are getting closer to becoming a reality.

Written by Kirti Pathak

Published on : June 3, 2021 10:38

Cross border
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Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens‘ plan to hold COVID-19 immunization clinics in the tunnel that connects the city to Detroit in southwestern Ontario got a step closer to reality on Wednesday.

The Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Corporation overwhelmingly approved the shutdown of the Canadian side of the tunnel, removing a roadblock in the mayor’s plan to get American immunizations into Canadian hands.

“Your feet will be firmly planted in Canada, and the pharmacist’s feet will be firmly planted in the United States, and they’ll just reach across the border and give you the vaccine,” Dilkens explained. The mayor established a waiting list for Windsor residents who want their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine last week. Nearly 6,000 people have signed up since then.

After contacting the federal government to obtain access to unused U.S. vaccines that were about to expire, Dilkens and other Windsor officials came up with the tunnel proposal. His other ideas, such as busing citizens to Detroit to get vaccinated (the land border has been blocked to non-essential travel since March 2020) or a drive-thru clinic, was rejected by Ottawa.

“We know doses are being thrown away,” Dilkens added. “We know that doses are running out, so we’re attempting to match up the folks on the waitlist with the dosages that are about to run out.” Later this week, Dilkens said, a line would be painted to clearly indicate the border between the two countries. “This isn’t the best location for it, but we’ll do it if we have no other option. Everyone will know when they get there what side of the line they have to stay on” said Dikens.

The vaccines from Michigan will only be offered to Canadians who have had the first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca-Oxford. A date has not yet been set, but Dilkens said the logistics will be organized and he hopes to have more concrete information by next week.

The tunnel corporation has accepted the closing of the Windsor, Ont., side in exchange for the mayor’s desire to receive COVID-19 shots in arms. Dilkens, along with Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj, had also been pushing for cross-border vaccine use without requiring people entering Canada from another country to quarantine for 14 days. 

Last month, the Public Health Agency of Canada clarified previous reports, saying Canadians looking to drive across the border to the United States for the sole purpose of getting a COVID-19 vaccine are not exempted from the quarantine period on their return. Dilkens said he does not need PHAC’s authorization or blessing to give U.S. vaccines to an Ontario resident.

“Every city in every province is under a declared state of emergency, and we’re telling people the pathway out of this is to get fully vaccinated and you have people who are trying to do that, and they’re being denied the opportunity to get their full vaccine when it’s being offered to them.”