Some Canadian commercial truck drivers hauling along routes in the United States are now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines in Montana at no cost to themselves, according to officials.
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a deal (pdf) on May 7 with the Premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney, under which Alberta commercial truck drivers who are regulated to transport goods into the United States will be offered the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine while in Montana.
“The pandemic has had devastating consequences, including a severe impact on our economies,” Gianforte said in a statement. “By working together and taking this critical action, we keep our trade channels open between Montana and Alberta.”
Under the deal, Montana will offer COVID-19 jabs to Alberta truckers entering and exiting the state between May 10 and May 23. Both the duration and scope of the program have the potential to be expanded, according to a Memorandum of Understanding that underpins the deal.
“We’re doing everything we can to get a vaccine into Albertans’ arms as fast as possible, including by forging this innovative agreement with Montana,” Kenney said in a statement.
The vaccines are being offered at a mobile inoculation site at a rest stop near Conrad, Montana, about 60 miles south of the U.S.-Canada border, along Interstate 15. The service is free of charge and there’s no requirement to book ahead.
Around 2,000 commercial drivers from Alberta are eligible to receive a shot under the program, which also extends to Montana and other U.S.-based truckers. Montana will bear the cost of staffing the vaccine site, as well as supply and administration expenses, according to the agreement.
“Alberta depends on trade with our American neighbours and this program will ensure our goods get to market while stopping the spike of COVID-19,” Kenney said in the statement.
Montana authorities will provide proof of vaccination to the drivers once they’ve received the jab, according to the agreement.
“Truckers have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep our goods moving and shelves stocked,” said Ric McIver, Alberta’s minister of transportation.
“This agreement with our American neighbours will help us protect Alberta truckers who cross the border while vaccinating as many Albertans as quickly as we can,” McIver added.
Around 800 commercial truck drivers cross the Alberta-Montana border each day, on average.