Cross-border vaccine plan would need U.S. federal approval, MP says

·3 min read
The Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Corporation approved the closure of the Windsor side of the international tunnel - on Windsor's side - to administer U.S. vaccines to Canadians.  (Dale Molnar/CBC - image credit)
The Windsor-Detroit Tunnel Corporation approved the closure of the Windsor side of the international tunnel - on Windsor's side - to administer U.S. vaccines to Canadians. (Dale Molnar/CBC - image credit)

Windsor—Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk is pushing back against the claim that Ottawa is standing in the way of Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens plan to set up a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

The Liberal MP said he supports efforts to secure excess U.S. vaccines, but any cross-border vaccine plan needs the blessing of the U.S. federal government.

"If that plan moves forward, I think its terrific. If we can get additional vaccines over to Canada, that's fantastic and that's always been the position of the Canadian government," he said on CBC Radio's Windsor Morning on Friday.

Earlier this week, Dilkens accused the federal government of blocking his attempts to see Windsor residents receive their second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from supplies that would otherwise go unused from sources such as U.S. pharmacies.

"It is my hope that the federal government will hopefully wake up and start to work with us on a very sensible pathway to help accelerate the vaccination of our local population," Dilkens said on the Tuesday edition of the radio show.

LISTEN | Irek Kusmierczyk joins Windsor Morning

Kusmierczyk told host Tony Doucette on Friday that Canada would "gladly accept" vaccines from Michigan and the U.S. and has been working on facilitating access — but pharmacists don't have the authority to share them to Canadian residents.

Chris Ensing/CBC
Chris Ensing/CBC

"You need to get the approval from the state of Michigan and from President Joe Biden, because it is the U.S. government that owns and controls the vaccines," he said, adding that correspondence from the office of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer confirms that the state doesn't have federal approval to share vaccines.

The U.S. has announced plans to share its vast vaccine supply with other countries, though the efforts are largely aimed at providing vaccines to Africa, Asia and Latin America.

11.7 million doses sent to Ontario

So far during the pandemic, the federal government has sent nearly 11.7 million vaccines to Ontario. Through national procurement efforts, the federal government has deals to access more than 100 million doses of the approved vaccines, far exceeding what would be required to vaccinate the entire population.

As of Friday, 18.7 per cent of adults in Windsor-Essex have received their first and second doses, and the overall vaccination rate stands at 60 per cent for the population.

Dilkens is pitching the cross-border clinic idea because he wants to see people access those second shots sooner.

The proposed plan for the tunnel clinic involves Windsor residents who are pharmacists administering shots from the U.S. side of the border while the Canadian recipients remain in their country. Dilkens has set up a "wait list" for anyone interested, and said he believes this would be permitted under the state's rules.

Many Windsorites who work in Michigan have already gotten vaccinated in the state.

According to U.S. media reports citing state data, around 37,000 doses have been wasted or spoiled in Michigan.

Some vaccine doses are going unused because there are multiple shots in a vial and a limited timeframe in which to use the open product. Dilkens said he has heard from many pharmacists about this issue, and there is support for giving the doses away to Canadians.

"Those doses would be like liquid gold here. We could get them into arms in 30 seconds flat," Dilkens said earlier this week.

A letter from the Public Health Agency sent to Dilkens on Monday pointed out potential liability as well as regulatory concerns, since the administration of vaccines in this manner may be considered importing the vaccines.

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