A recent donation of COVID-19 vaccines from the Aamskapi’Piikuni Blackfeet Nation in Browning, Montana to nearby residents in Alberta inspired gratitude for the in-demand gift, as well as criticism toward the federal and provincial governments' response to distribution.
On April 20 and 21, and April 28 and 29, a mobile drive-through clinic was set up at the U.S.-Canada border, close to the town of Cardston, Alta. Hundreds of vehicles lined up for hours for a chance to get a first or second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.
The Blackfeet Nation made the donation of surplus supply after immunizing the majority of its members with both doses of the vaccine.
“We don’t want to waste our extra vaccines, so we put this idea together and look what it did,” James McNeely, the public information officer with the Blackfeet Tribe in Browning said in a release.
“Indian people are generous, and we’ve been vaccinating many people from all walks of life to help save lives and end this pandemic. This is a time for reconciliation and healing and for government-to-government relations to become stronger.”
In total, about 750 vaccines were administered.
Those hoping to get the jab lined up for hours in a parade of cars that stretch for nearly three kilometres. Some had driven for hours to get a chance at being vaccinated. As there was more demand than supply, some people had to be turned away.
As of May 3, 1,621,306 doses have been administered in Alberta, with 300,755 Albertans fully immunized with both doses.
On social media, people praised the kindness of the Blackfeet Nation, and criticized governments in Canada for their handling of vaccine distribution.
Last week, Alaska’s governor Mike Dunleavy said he wanted to offer vaccines to residents in neighbouring town Stewart, B.C. and the Yukon, in hopes of creating a bubble that would encompass the region.