Manitoba teachers will be able to get vaccinated in North Dakota, premier says

Manitoba teachers and other school employees will be able to get vaccinated in the U.S., Premier Brian Pallister says.

An agreement announced last week that allows Manitoba truck drivers who regularly cross the border into North Dakota to get vaccinated in the U.S. will be extended to teachers and other school workers, he said.

“The way this will work is the person will go to the border, [cross], get a vaccine and must come immediately back. They’re not going shopping in Grand Forks,” Pallister said during a news conference Thursday.

Pallister suggested a possible cross-border vaccination site for teachers could be the International Peace Garden that straddles the Canada-U.S. border near Boissevain in southwestern Manitoba. He said some of the details still need to be worked out.

One possibility is to have a vaccination hub open on weekends so teachers can make the trip without having to take time off, he said.

When asked why the onus will be on teachers and education workers to drive across the border on their own time, Pallister said he thinks most teachers won’t see it as a burden but an opportunity.

Isolation rules lifted for teachers seeking vaccines

Isolation requirements will be lifted for teachers and education system staff who opt to seek a vaccine this way, Pallister said. Currently, anyone who enters Manitoba must get tested and self-isolate for two weeks upon arrival.

Federal rules require 14 days of quarantine for most Canadians after they cross the border, with some exemptions, but the federal government is permitting exemptions for teacher vaccination, he said.

The Manitoba government has been criticized in recent weeks for failing to include teachers on the priority list of workers who are eligible to be vaccinated.

The Manitoba Teachers Society echoed those calls again Thursday morning, ahead of the announcement, in calling for all Winnipeg schools to move to remote learning starting next week.

Premier Brian Pallister says Manitoba teachers will be able to get vaccinated in North Dakota as part of a cross-border vaccination agreement. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Winnipeg high school teacher Lauren Hope said she welcomes the chance for educators to get vaccinated, but she’s worried it’s coming too late to stop the transmission already happening in schools.

“We know that the numbers reflect what happened weeks ago, so if our numbers are high now and we’re really riding this third wave at a much higher level and R-value than we did in October and November, then vaccines now aren’t enough,” she said.

Hope said getting teachers and other staff immunized against COVID-19 is an important part of slowing the spread of the illness in schools. But vaccines take time to build up immunity, so moving schools to remote learning now is crucial, she said.

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