In a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, essential workers including truck drivers and energy workers, crossing the border from the United States into Saskatchewan will be able to be vaccinated at the North Dakota Department of Transportations rest area near Drayton, N.D. Currently truck drivers originating in Manitoba are able to be vaccinated at the site and starting Wednesday, April 28, Saskatchewan truck drivers will also be eligible to roll up their sleeve for vaccination at the site. Vaccinations are available from noon to 8 pm Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The Premier estimated that approximately 2000 Saskatchewan residents will be eligible to be vaccinated through the program.
“Trade with the United States is essential for the Saskatchewan economy,” Premier Moe stated. “These essential workers are crossing the border to ensure our residents and those in the United States have access to the goods and services they need to get through this pandemic. This extraordinary level of cooperation helps protect more Canadians at a time when vaccine availability in America exceeds that of Canada, and we thank Governor Burgum for working with our province to make this happen.”
Governor Borgum had this to say, “Protecting the health and safety of essential workers crossing our shared border with Saskatchewan, including truck drivers and energy workers, is vitally important for public health, our economy and the eventual safe reopening of the border. We are grateful to Premier Moe for his partnership on this initiative, which will ensure the safe delivery of goods and services across the border and strengthen the longstanding friendly relationship between North Dakota and our northern neighbours.”
Another vaccination site has been approved closer to the border crossing at North Portal, south of Estevan, and officials are currently deciding upon an appropriate location. This site will offer vaccines not only to truckers but also to the energy workers who regularly cross the border for work in the energy sector. The North Dakota Department of Health will be providing the staff and the infrastructure needed to administer the vaccinations and operate the clinics. As United States government provides the vaccine to each state and reimburses for the cost of administering the vaccine, neither the State of North Dakota nor the Province of Saskatchewan will bear the cost of the vaccination program.
Also just announced today, the eligible age ranges for booking COVID-19 vaccinations drops tomorrow April 28th, to individuals 42 years of age and older anywhere in the province and to those 30 years of age and older in the Northern Saskatchewan Administrative District. Effective Friday April 30, that age criteria will bump down again to ages 40 years and over and all eligible workers who have been identified as priority. While still struggling with vaccine supply, Health Minister Merriman said, “as larger volumes of vaccine arrives, we are taking an aggressive approach to getting shots in the arms of as many residents as possible as quickly as possible.” Premier Moe announced that the deliveries of the Pfizer vaccine scheduled for next month will be doubling to approximately 63,000 doses per week. No updates on other vaccine deliveries were available today.
The additional priority workers identified include police, firefighters, volunteer firefighters, public health inspectors, teachers and educational staff working with students, and all previously identified frontline health care workers. Individuals eligible for priority vaccination will need to provide proof of employment through a letter from their employer, a paystub no older than March 1, 2021 or a copy of their professional license. Appointments for priority workers will need to be made by telephone at 1-833-SaskVax (1-833-727-5829). Proof of employment will need to be shown at the time of the vaccination.
Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Shahab spoke to the continuing spread of the variants of concern in the province. While the cases in Regina seem to be stabilizing, unfortunately what was seen in Regina is now appearing to occur in Saskatoon. He advised that everyone in the province continue to follow all of the current public health measures that are in place. He advised that nonessential travel be avoided if at all possible, but if travel outside of Saskatchewan must occur, Dr. Shahab advised that people get tested immediately upon returning to Saskatchewan, and then again on the tenth day after return. Testing needs to be a high priority of people in the province to stem the spread of the virus especially the variants of concern. The only way to be sure that you are not infected with the virus is through testing.
Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder