Premier Brian Pallister has backed off a plan that would have seen teachers and other school workers vaccinated against COVID-19 in North Dakota.
At a press conference last Thursday, Pallister said the province was working on a deal to allow teachers to drive into North Dakota, where vaccines are plentiful, to be inoculated.
The province already has a program set up with North Dakota that allows Manitoba truck drivers who cross the border to receive a shot while they’re in the state.
Last week, Pallister had promised more details about the deal would come this week, but, after making no announcement, he admitted he was dropping the plan when asked by a reporter Friday.
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society was against the idea, Pallister said, so North Dakota will instead ask the United States government for special permission to export its vaccines to Manitoba.
“It was my hope that we could have teachers vaccinated in North Dakota … (but) my friends at the Manitoba Teachers Union thought that was disrespectful,” Pallister said.
“It wasn’t meant that way, (it) was meant to try to show, frankly, our government’s respect for the work of our teachers and to help facilitate those who could travel 45 minutes to get a vaccine.
“Nonetheless, we have continued our dialogue all last week and this week with regard to getting White House approval to allow vaccines to be shipped up here from North Dakota.”
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society had long been calling for its members to be prioritized for vaccines and for schools in Winnipeg to move to remote learning due to rising COVID-19 infections, but president James Bedford called Pallister’s cross-border initiative a band-aid solution.
“You need a car, you need a passport, you need the right answers to questions you get asked at the border,” Bedford said last week.
“You get your shot, if you get a reaction I suppose it means a hospital stay in North Dakota that will weigh on folks on who picks up the bill for that.”
Pallister’s plan would have also needed to see the federal government add teachers to the list of essential workers exempt from mandatory 14-day quarantines after returning from another country, something Ottawa appeared noncommittal about last week.
— With files from The Canadian Press
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