Manitoba

Instead of sending Manitoba teachers to North Dakota for vaccine, premier hopes U.S. shots can be shipped here

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says he’s now waiting on approval from the White House to get COVID-19 vaccines shipped from North Dakota to Manitoba to immunize teachers. 

Some found plan to deliver vaccines in North Dakota disrespectful, but 'it wasn't meant that way': Pallister

The Manitoba Teachers' Society has called on the province to move all schools in Winnipeg to remote learning, due to the rise of COVID-19 cases and the spread of more infectious coronavirus variants. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister says he's now waiting to hear whether the White House will allow COVID-19 vaccines to be shipped from North Dakota to Manitoba, after announcing last week he was working on a plan that would let teachers and school staff to travel to the U.S. state to get immunized there. 

"I would have preferred that we make the vaccines available quickly for those who were able to travel to North Dakota. Apparently that wasn't well received," said Pallister at a news conference Friday. 

The proposal was derided by many teachers, with one calling the idea "laughable" and the Manitoba Teachers' Society saying it showed a lack of planning on the province's part.

The province had previously reached an agreement with the state that would allow truck drivers who regularly cross the border into North Dakota to get a COVID-19 vaccine there. 

"Gov. [Doug] Burgum's been nothing but a saint through this process," Pallister said Friday. "He's been totally supportive of any effort we can make."

A spokesman for the North Dakota governor told CBC News in an email last Friday, a day after Pallister announced the plan, that the state was "receptive to the concept" and details were being worked out to "determine feasibility," but said no official deal had been struck.

With the plan to have teachers get vaccines in the U.S. apparently off the table, Pallister said Friday he hoped that a deal can be arranged to have vaccine doses shipped from North Dakota to Manitoba.

A provincial spokesperson said if approved, any plans on how the vaccines would be administered would depend on supply and when they were delivered.

Currently in Manitoba, teachers who live in geographic areas identified as high risk for COVID-19 are eligible for a  vaccine.

The province's vaccine task force said Wednesday it expects all adults in the province will be able to book an appointment for a shot by May 21. 

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the Progressive Conservative government should be looking at ways to administer vaccines around the clock. 

He said Pallister was attempting to defend his plan to vaccinate teachers in North Dakota, rather than moving forward and prioritizing their vaccinations here in Manitoba.

"The premier doesn't need White House approval to prioritize Manitoba teachers and school staff in our vaccination program in Manitoba," Kinew said Friday. "He could have announced that this morning." 

The Manitoba Teachers' Society, which represents 16,660 teachers, has previously called on the province to prioritize teachers in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Last week, following Pallister's announcement of the North Dakota vaccination plan, MTS president James Bedford said the province hadn't consulted with the union on anything to do with vaccination.

Pallister said Friday that while some found a plan to allow teachers to get vaccinated in North Dakota disrespectful, that wasn't his intention. 

"It wasn't meant that way," said Pallister. "It was meant to try to show, frankly, our government's respect for the work of our teachers and to help facilitate those who could travel 45 minutes to get a vaccine." 

Pallister initially announced the plan to vaccinate teachers in North Dakota on the same day the Manitoba Teachers' Society called on the province to move all schools in Winnipeg to remote learning, due to the rise of COVID-19 cases and the spread of more infectious variants.

With files from Bryce Hoye

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