The Essential Worker Cross-Border Vaccination Initiative – launched jointly by North Dakota’s state government and the Manitoba provincial government on April 22 – is relying on rest areas managed by the North Dakota Department of Transportation to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to Manitoba-based truck drivers transporting goods to and from the United States.
[Above photo by the North Dakota DOT]
With the assistance of the Manitoba Trucking Association and its members, Manitoba is identifying and coordinating with eligible individuals and it is working with North Dakota to schedule vaccination appointments for truck drivers during their routine trips to North Dakota over the next six to eight weeks.
This is the first such program between Canadian and American jurisdictions and it expects roughly 2,000 to 4,000 Manitoba drivers to receive vaccinations via this inoculation initiative. Meanwhile, development of a similar trucker vaccination program is currently underway between North Dakota and the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.
“North Dakota and Manitoba have a long and rich history of friendship and cooperation, and this vaccination initiative is an opportunity to strengthen that bond by offering assistance that will protect public health and the flow of goods and services on both sides of the border,” noted Governor Doug Burgum (R) in a statement.
“With adequate vaccine supplies and all North Dakotans having access to vaccine while Canada is dealing with a vaccine shortage, we want to do our part to ensure essential workers from Canada who are frequently traveling through our state are vaccinated,” he said. “The timely and effective administration of vaccines is essential for public health and the eventual safe reopening of our shared border.”
“We are proud to partner with the North Dakota Department of Health, and the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan to provide COVID-19 vaccines to members of the trucking industry,” Bill Panos, director of the North Dakota DOT, explained to the AASHTO Journal via email.
“We view this as an opportunity to fulfil our mission of safely moving people and goods,” he said. “As an organization, we will continue to support the state’s response during this pandemic for as long as necessary.”
The North Dakota DOT-managed Alexander Henry rest area on Interstate 29 is serving as the initial vaccination site for this program, which will also offer inoculations for state residents aged 16 and older. Vaccinations will take place from noon to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
The Federal Highway Administration granted the North Dakota DOT an “alternate use” waiver that allows the North Dakota Department of Health to use the north and south bound parking areas of the Alexander Henry Rest Area as a vaccination location.
The North Dakota DOT is also providing traffic control on the interstate to help motorists entering and exiting the rest area as well as for the section providing vaccinations.
“We are doing what we can to help ensure it is a smooth process for the Department of Health and the truckers who are receiving vaccines, while at the same time, keeping the rest area operating safely for the traveling public,” explained Ed Pavlish, district engineer for North Dakota DOT’s Grand Forks district.”