Windsor politicians propose allowing Canadians to access Detroit's excess vaccines

The top doctor for Windsor and Essex County says talks are ongoing to see if there might be a way to get COVID-19 vaccines that would otherwise go unused in Detroit into the arms of Canadians.

Mayor, MP say doses that would otherwise go unused could go to Canadians

In this Jan. 11, 2019, photo, the Detroit skyline is seen from Windsor, Ont. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Government officials are in discussions to determine whether there's a way to allow Windsorites to receive COVID-19 vaccines that would otherwise go unused in Detroit.

Dr. Wajid Ahmed, medical officer of health for Windsor and Essex County, said at this time, there's no confirmation such an initiative could go ahead but talks are happening at the federal and provincial level to see if it could .

"A lot of these discussions and conversations are ongoing and it will take some time before the logistics are worked out," he said at the health unit's daily briefing on Monday.

The idea has been pitched by Mayor Drew Dilkens. According to the mayor's office, Windsor pharmacists who work in the U.S. have told Dilkens that vaccines are being wasted in Detroit, since there are multiple doses in a vial and a limited time frame in which to use the product once opened.

The mayor suggested Transit Windsor could be used to bring people across the border for a shot and get them back home.

Windsor officials have contacted higher levels of government and hope to have an answer in the coming weeks, according to a spokesperson for the mayor.

Manitoba-North Dakota agreement

In Manitoba, a deal allowing some essential workers to get vaccines in with North Dakota has already been struck.

It started with truckers who regularly cross the border and eligibility has since been extended to teachers and other school workers, including janitors and administrators.

Brian Masse, NDP MP for Windsor West, wants to see that sort of model in Ontario with New York and Michigan, starting with essential workers then potentially expanding further.

"What we're calling for, quite specifically, is the excess vaccinations to be used for essential workers going into the United States from Canada," he said.

Masse said this practice is already occurring in an informal way, though there are essential cross-border workers particularly and small and medium-size businesses who haven't yet been given the opportunity for a shot.

Thousands of cross-border workers live in Windsor-Essex, including many who work at hospitals who may have been offered vaccines through their employment.

State statistics show Michigan's vaccine rollout is far ahead of Ontario's, but Detroit is lagging behind.

The state's vaccination rate stands at 50 per cent, though just 30.8 per cent of Detroit residents have received at least one dose.

In Windsor-Essex, 35.3 per cent of residents have gotten one or more shots of a COVID-19 vaccine.

With files from Elvis Nouemsi Njiké and Bryce Hoye

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