Mayor presses for residents to be able to go to Michigan for surplus vaccine doses

Author of the article:

Anne Jarvis

Publishing date:

May 06, 2021  •  6 hours ago  •  3 minute read  •  5 Comments

Downtown Windsor, Ontario, foreground with Detroit, Michigan in the background is shown on Saturday, April 3, 2021.
Downtown Windsor, Ontario, foreground with Detroit, Michigan in the background is shown on Saturday, April 3, 2021. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

Pharmacists from Windsor who work in Michigan are offering to immunize thousands of people from here with the state’s surplus COVID-19 vaccine.

But it’s not happening — and vials are expiring and being thrown out — because the Canadian government won’t waive the two-week quarantine for returning travellers, Mayor Drew Dilkens said Thursday.

“I don’t get the sense there’s any willingness from the federal government to provide flexibility from the existing rules to allow this to happen,” Dilkens said.

The mayor said he has received at least six calls and emails in the last two weeks from health-care providers who live in Windsor but work in Michigan saying, “We have so much vaccine in Michigan. How can you help us get people over here?”

“Drew, I need to talk to you because I’m just beside myself with the situation,” a pharmacist at the Costco in Livonia told him.

Everyone who shows up at that Costco asking for a vaccine gets one, she said. But when a vial is opened, it must be used within five hours. The pharmacy has had to resort to standing at the entrance calling for people to get a vaccine to use up open vials.


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“She said, ‘We’ve thrown away dozens and dozens of vials of vaccine because we can’t get enough people to take it,’” Dilkens said. “It’s disturbing to her that she’s throwing this in the garbage when she knows the need is so great 15 minutes away in our community.

“She said, ‘I can get 1,500 doses if you can find a way to get people here or we can work something else out.”

Dilkens wanted to use Transit Windsor buses to transport people — wearing masks and using hand sanitizer— directly there and back.

“She said to me, ‘I can even give the shots on the bus,’” he said. “People don’t even have to get off the bus.”

Another pharmacist who works at Meijer and is a supervisor at the mass vaccination clinic at Ford Field called Dilkens this week.

“She said, ‘We are ready and able to handle 7,000 doses a day. On a good day, we do 2,500.’ She said it’s just insane. People just don’t want it.”

Dilkens wanted to offer the doses to people here who are waiting for their second shot, so the trip would be “one and done.”

“Then we could fully vaccine the community faster,” he said.

Dilkens said he has contacted the U.S. consul general in Toronto, the head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection for the Port of Detroit, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc, Canadian consul general in Detroit Joe Comartin, Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk, even Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

But neither U.S. Customs nor the Canadian government are willing to waive current border restrictions to allow the buses, he said. He asked for a special exemption from the Canadian government to waive the two-week quarantine.


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“The first barrier, the harder barrier, is having to quarantine for two weeks after they come back from getting a vaccine,” he said.

He said LeBlanc’s office provided “a long response on all the challenges in doing this, but there was no pathway to make it happen.”

However, Comartin is discussing the proposal with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s office, Kusmierczyk said.

“Any time there is a proposal to get more vaccine, we’ll definitely look at it,” he said.

But he called this proposal complex.

The two countries have an agreement prohibiting non-essential travel, he said.

Michigan also has one of the highest COVID-19 case rates in the U.S., he said.

“Our priority first and foremost is the health and safety of Canadians and cross-border communities like ours,” he said. “Having those strong protocols in place at the border is one of the reasons why communities like ours have been, relatively speaking, able to protect the community from worse cases.”

Dilkens offered for the city to pay for Canada Border Services Agency officers to ride on the buses to ensure everyone goes directly there and back.

“Whatever needs to happen, we’re willing to do our part,” he said.

Dilkens also proposed directing the bus to take people to a site on the Ambassador Bridge near a plaza and duty free store so it doesn’t actually leave Canada and enter the U.S. The pharmacist from Costco offered to erect a tent for a pop-up vaccine clinic there and vaccinate 1,500 people, “easy.”

But putting people on an enclosed bus for an extended period of time “has serious risks,” Kusmierczyk also said.

“We’re in lockdown in Ontario to help the province get ahold of this terrible third wave,” he said.

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