BISMARCK — North Dakota is set to begin administering COVID-19 vaccinations to Saskatchewan-based truck drivers and oil field workers who frequently cross the border between the state and Canadian province.
The announcement on Tuesday, April 27, that North Dakota will provide vaccines to as many as 2,000 Saskatchewan long-haulers and oil workers comes a week after the state agreed to help vaccinate up to 4,000 Manitoba truckers in what leaders called a "continental first."
The state has set up a vaccination clinic at a rest area along Interstate 29 near Drayton, about 30 miles south of a frequently traversed commercial border crossing with Manitoba. The clinic is open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays when many Canadian truckers return home. The shots are free, and federal funds will cover the full cost of running the clinic, according to North Dakota officials.
Another clinic near the North Portal border crossing with Saskatchewan has been approved, but an exact location has not yet been determined.
The unorthodox arrangement between the state and its northern neighbors is born out of contrasting pandemic circumstances faced by the United States and Canada.
The U.S. has been a worldwide leader in rolling out the vaccine, and nearly 47% of all eligible North Dakotans have received at least one shot. Vaccination rates are significantly lower in the provinces, and Canada has experienced more difficulty in acquiring doses.
Gov. Doug Burgum and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe noted the strong economic ties between the state and province as the driving motivation for establishing the vaccination program.
“These essential workers are crossing the border to ensure our residents and those in the United States have access to the goods and services they need to get through this pandemic," Moe said. "This extraordinary level of cooperation helps protect more Canadians at a time when vaccine availability in America exceeds that of Canada, and we thank Governor Burgum for working with our province to make this happen.”