Fire chief offers to vaccinate Americans living in B.C. and Canadians as well

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Point Roberts fire chief Christopher Carleton is approaching the Washington congressional delegation with a unique idea for cross-border collaboration – using Point Roberts as a vaccination site for Canadians.

“There are thousands of Americans in the lower mainland of British Columbia who, if allowed, could be vaccinated here in Point Roberts,” Carleton wrote in an April 26 letter to congresswoman Suzan DelBene, senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and state representative Sharon Shewmake. He also forwarded to a letter to the office of governor Jay Inslee. “This could be extended to Canadians as an international cooperative, helping an ally.”

“Point Roberts is in a position, unlike many others, to offer this controlled extension of assistance due to our geographical isolation and secured border passages. As you know, Point Roberts does not provide open access to the rest of our country, but would allow more direct vaccination ability for our northern neighbors, while also supporting our local economy.”

“Our nation’s issue now is beginning to shift toward having more vaccine available than we have candidates seeking to receive it. Canada, and our British Columbia neighbors in particular, are facing surges and emerging variants, problems which are greatly compounded by vaccine shortages.”

Carleton suggested that excess vaccine could be distributed to B.C. residents using a system similar to the one that has allowed over 70 percent of the local population to be vaccinated: a drive-through vaccination clinic manned by trained personnel from the local fire department and clinic.

“It would be a safe influx into the community and logistically we can do it,” he said in a later interview, adding he estimated they could administer 100 doses an hour.

Currently the department has 40 doses of the Moderna vaccine not being used by the Point Roberts community and it is available to U.S. citizens living in the B.C. lower mainland, Carleton said, but they need to be prepared to quarantine for 14 days when they return to Canada.

He is hoping federal authorities on both sides of the border can get on board with a one-stop drive-through vaccination site, possibly at the Best Time RV property on Tyee Drive, that B.C. residents could access without having to quarantine. If the scenario is approved, Carleton said, “I would be asking the federal government for additional vaccine to serve U.S. citizens living in Canada but also our Canadian neighbors.”

If border restrictions could be adjusted to allow Canadians who owned property on the Point to come down and stay at their properties then return home fully vaccinated with a negative COVID test and avoid quarantine, Carleton said, “It would help our economy and our community.”

While acknowledging there are obstacles to setting up a cross-border vaccination effort in Point Roberts, Carleton said, “There’s really not another location that is more secure.”

Sharing vaccines in a bid to easing border restrictions is also being tried in Alaska, where the Associated Press reported Governor Mike Dunleavy traveled to Hyder, Alaska with doses of vaccine. Residents of neighboring Stewart, B.C. were able to cross the border to get a dose on April 22. North Dakota has also recently announced it would provide vaccinations to southbound Canadian truckers and teachers.

B.C. premier John Horgan was asked on April 27 about getting more vaccines from the U.S. and, referring to North Dakota providing doses to its Manitoba neighbors, said he would be meeting with Washington state governor Jay Inslee later in the week and that would be one of the points of discussion.

While Carleton said he had not yet received a response to the letter from its recipients, he has received numerous requests for interviews from Canadian news outlets including The Vancouver Sun and Global TV.

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