North Dakota to vaccinate Manitoba truckers

North Dakota will administer Covid-19 vaccinations to Manitoba-based truck drivers transporting goods to and from the United States, the first such program between a Canadian and U.S. jurisdiction.

The Essential Worker Cross-Border Vaccination Initiative was announced by North Dakota governor Doug Burgum and Manitoba premier Brian Pallister on Tuesday.

“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.

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.”

2,000-4,000 truck drivers

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. It is estimated roughly 2,000 to 4,000 Manitoba drivers will take part in this program.

“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.”

The North Dakota Department of Transportation’s rest area near Drayton, N.D., will initially serve as the vaccination site, which will also be open to North Dakotans ages 16 and older to get vaccinated. Vaccinations will take place from noon to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

Few drivers with Covid-19

The announcement comes as a Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) straw poll revealed that 35 of Canada’s largest cross-border fleets have counted no more than 60 truck drivers who have contracted Covid-19 since March 2020 – barely 0.005% of the 12,000 drivers they employ.

Most of the drivers who tested positive contracted the virus through community spread and not their occupation, the alliance adds.

“Unfortunately, as many search for answers and solutions to fight this crisis, some people have wrongly identified the very people who have kept this country moving as a source for the growing Covid-19 problem,” the alliance says. 

“These mischaracterizations being made of truck drivers, including those who must travel across the border and between provinces to deliver the essential freight Canadians and businesses require, are unfair and, flatly, unsupported by the evidence and available data.” 

The stigma has seen drivers denied access to retail restaurant facilities and washrooms, while families have been turned away from standard medical treatment despite meeting other qualifications, CTA says.

Canada’s largest trucking association stressed in its statement that longhaul truck drivers may physically contact as few as one or two people over three or four days, and are largely isolated in their cabs.

Recent testing clinics held in Alberta and B.C. generated no positive results for Covid-19, it adds.