Windsor mayor continues push for cross-border vaccines

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens is continuing to push for a cross-border vaccine program between the U.S. and Canada despite federal quarantine rules for travellers.

'Everyone is trying to find a sensible, fair and reasonable solution to this problem,' Drew Dilkens says

"Everyone is trying to find a sensible, fair and reasonable solution to this problem and it helps solve the shared goal that we have is to get everyone vaccinated," says Mayor Dilkens. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens is continuing his push for cross-border vaccine access, despite the federal government  saying that travellers to the U.S. won't be exempt from quarantine requirements.

The mayor has met with officials in the Detroit mayor's office to discuss options on how to move forward and prevent doses from going to waste.

"We're not trying to launch a rocket to Mars here," said Dilkens. 

More than half the population in Windsor-Essex has received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but Dilkens is hoping for a faster solution by offering cross border options. 

"Everyone is trying to find a sensible, fair and reasonable solution to this problem, and it helps solve the shared goal that we have is to get everyone vaccinated," said Dilkens.

The mayor said he has suggested a number of solutions to the federal government, including busing residents across the border to get vaccinated with a Canada Border Services Agency officer, as well as a drive-thru clinic on the Ambassador Bridge. With a drive-thru clinic, he said, there would not be a need to quarantine because patients would not leave their car and could drive back home. 

'Changing rules'

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) made a decision that would allow quarantine exemptions for cross-border vaccines, but then quickly reversed it.

On May 17, Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj wrote to PHAC requesting that a ruling on whether getting a vaccine would be considered an "essential medical service or treatment" under the current emergency measures at the border. The agency responded by saying that COVID-19 vaccines would be considered essential, and if Canadian travellers met certain requirements, they "may" be exempt from the re-entry requirements.

Two days, later the agency said the quarantine exemptions were not intended for those travelling abroad to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

"Testing and quarantine exemptions for travellers returning to Canada after receiving essential medical services in a foreign country was not intended to be used for those seeking to receive a COVID-19 vaccination," a PHAC spokesperson said in an email.

"This provision is in place to allow Canadians who are seeking life-saving medical treatment outside of Canada."

Windsor Regional Hospital also applied to Health Canada to accept 75,000 doses being offered from Michigan. The hospital still hasn't received an answer. 

Some vaccines wasted, mayor says

Dilkens said he has had numerous phone calls from pharmacists offering him vaccines before they expire. 

"They know that we are struggling to get folks fully vaccinated and that is the pathway forward," he said.

"So it hurts them to have throw vaccines in the garbage as much as it hurts us to have to hear that they have to do that because the uptake on the Detroit side is not as high as they hoped it would be," said Dilkens.

Dilkens said he hopes officials in Ottawa will see his requests are reasonable and fair. 

With files from Chris Ensing


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