VANCOUVER, B.C. - The head of British Columbia's government has requested a call with Gov. Jay Inslee to discuss whether Washington could share excess COVID-19 vaccine doses with its neighbors to the north.
The request comes after the fire chief of Point Roberts, a small Washington enclave connected to B.C., wrote a letter outlining how it could work and why it would benefit a community that's been hard-hit by the U.S.-Canadian border closure.
Travel between Washington state and Point Roberts requires a 25-mile (40-kilometer) trip through Canada. Point Roberts residents are allowed to drive through Canada to get to the mainland despite border closures, but they cannot make any stops.
Businesses in Point Roberts relied heavily on traffic from Canadians who haven't been able to visit the small town.
Fire Chief Christopher Carleton said in the letter that more than 70 percent of Point Roberts residents have been vaccinated while their northern neighbors are facing vaccine shortages.
"Our nation’s issue now is beginning to shift toward having more vaccine available than we have candidates seeking to receive it," the chief said.
The chief has proposed a drive-through vaccine set-up that would allow Canadians to bypass the two-week quarantine requirement when returning to their country.
It wouldn't be the first program of its kind. The provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba have agreements that allow truck drivers to be vaccinated in North Dakota, and Manitoba is finalizing plans for teachers to be able to do the same.
The Blackfoot Tribe in Montana has vaccinated hundreds of Alberta, Canada, residents.
Inslee's office told Q13 News that British Columbia has requested a call but nothing has been set up yet.
"We are focused on vaccinating as many Washingtonians as possible right now and then we could hopefully help our neighbors and friends," a spokesperson for the governor's office said.
This week, Washington state health authorities began shifting their vaccine allocations as the state sees a slowdown in demand.
Previously, the state Department of Health allocated doses to counties proportionally based on their population. Now, allocation decisions will be based on health care provider requests, in addition to population size of counties.
All state residents over age 16 have been eligible for a coronavirus vaccination since April 15. As of Thursday, more than 5.2 million doses of vaccine have been administered and nearly 30% of the state has been fully vaccinated.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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