Alberta truckers to be vaccinated in Montana starting Monday
CALGARY -- Alberta truckers who cross into Montana will be able to get vaccinated starting next week, Premier Jason Kenney announced Friday.
The vacciantions will be delivered at a rest stop near Conrad, Mt. between May 10 and May 23. No appointment will be necessary.
About 2,000 truckers will be eligible. The program will use excess vaccine from Montana made by Johnson and Johnson, which requires one dose.
Kenney said about 800 commercial trucks cross the U.S.-Canada border at the Coutts crossing each day. There will be no cost to Albertans for the program.
"We're confident many truckers will pull over, roll up their sleeves and get their jab," said Kenney.
The premier added he has asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to lobby the U.S. government to loosen its rules around export of vaccines to make it possible for states with excess supply to send it to Canada.
The announcement is being welcomed by truckers like Keith Pike who has been driving goods across Canada and the U.S., throughout the pandemic.
"It’s certainly good to see the vaccines coming and honestly wherever they come from -- either our home Canadian provinces or the United States -- the faster we get this done obviously the better," said Pike.
"I know what my fellow truckers are going through out here so to get that vaccine and that extra measure of safety during these trying times is certainly going to be awesome."
Ontario-based driver Andrew Eckhart has already received a vaccine but was pleased to hear the news when he made a scheduled stop in Calgary Friday morning.
"You need this vaccine, especially when you’re going across the border down in the states because they don’t do very much isolating down there," he said.
"If you’re not vaccinated and you get COVID then your truck is shut down, it’s almost like the highway through hell and if everyone starts getting sick then goods aren’t getting delivered so it’s a do-or-die situation."
The goal of the agreement announced Friday — similar to ones made between Saskatachewan and Manitoba with the state of North Dakota — is to keep trade channels open, said Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte.
"I am grateful to Premier Kenney that we can band together to prevent the spread of COVID-19, protect truckers and their families from the virus, and ensure we maintain the exchange of goods our communities rely upon," he said.
"Montana will continue working to maintain our strong bonds with the people of Alberta.”
B.C. is also having similar discussions with Washington State.
Commercial transport drivers in Alberta have shown "steadfast commitment to their fellow Canadians and Americans," during the pandemic said Chris Nash, president of the Alberta Motor Transport Association.
"The Alberta Motor Transport Association is indebted to the Alberta government, the Motor Carriers of Montana and the Governor of Montana. We are proud to share their commitment to cooperation and safeguarding those helping build a more resilient supply chain and supporting the communities and economies of our two great countries.”
Alberta opened vaccinations to anyone born in 1991 and earlier on Friday and on Monday, eligibility will expand to anyone age 12 and up.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported 2,211 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday.
No new deaths were reported in the province as 654 people remain in hospital, including 146 in ICU.
Alberta currently has the highest COVID-19 infection rates in North America.
With files from CTV's Mark Villani