Advertisement

Albertans line up at U.S. border for COVID-19 vaccinations: ‘It feels great’

Click to play video: 'Southern Albertans offered COVID-19 vaccine at Montana border' Southern Albertans offered COVID-19 vaccine at Montana border
The Blackfeet Nation in Browning, Montana had a surplus of COVID-19 vaccines after immunizing the majority of its members—prompting them to open a mobile clinic for Alberta band members and residents at the Carway border. Eloise Therien has more – Apr 21, 2021

Linda Neilson had waited a long time to get her second COVID-19 vaccination and thanks to the generosity of the Blackfeet Tribe in Montana her wait ended at the Canada-United States border on Tuesday.

Neilson, who is from nearby Cardston, Alta., was in one of hundreds of vehicles lined up at the Carway crossing in southern Alberta.

A teenaged boy uses a skateboard to move up and down selling popcorn to Southern Alberta residents lining up to get shots of a COVID-19 vaccine from a Montana tribe in Carway, Alta., Tuesday, May 18, 2021. Jeff McIntosh, The Canadian Press

The Blackfeet Tribe, based 150 kilometres south of Lethbridge, Alta., had an abundance of vaccine and decided last month to share it with Canada rather than let it go to waste.

Story continues below advertisement

Initially it was just open to First Nations, but the tribe soon decided to offer it to everybody.

“I’m going to be all done, finally. It feels great. It’s been a bit of a wait, but it’s worth it,” said Neilson, who received her first shot of Moderna in March.

“I was amazed and grateful because it’s too slow getting it any other way. We’re just glad they were able to help us.”

Read more: Southern Albertans offered COVID-19 vaccines at Montana border

Albertans who attend the clinic are given exemptions from having to quarantine for 14 days.

They line up in their cars, drive through a loop that takes them just across the border, receive their shots through the window, are monitored for 15 minutes and return home.

Southern Alberta residents return to Canada after getting shots of a COVID-19 vaccine from a Montana tribe in Carway, Alta., Tuesday, May 18, 2021. Jeff McIntosh, The Canadian Press

Health workers from the Blackfeet Tribe and members of the Montana National Guard administer the vaccine.

Story continues below advertisement

Tuesday marked the second offering of shots. The lineup was more than a kilometre long by 9 a.m. Some people slept in their cars on the highway and on road allowances to ensure they got a turn before supply ran out.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

That’s what happened to Ken Sawatzky when he drove from Calgary a couple of weeks ago. He wanted to get his booster shot because his wife is a cancer patient.

He drove down again Tuesday.

“She’s fully inoculated. This will make sure we’re both safe, because I’m her caregiver, too. I think it’s a great thing,” said Sawatzky.

Bonnie Healey, health director for the Blackfoot Confederacy, chats with southern Alberta residents lining up to get shots of a COVID-19 vaccine from a Montana tribe in Carway, Alta., Tuesday, May 18, 2021. Jeff McIntosh, The Canadian Press

Bonnie Healy, health director for the Blackfoot Confederacy, helped co-ordinate the vaccination clinic. She said the response has been overwhelming.

Story continues below advertisement

“I had a hard time believing it was that hard to get a shot in Canada. A lot of people are coming for a second dose,” Healy said.

Read more: Interactive map breaks down COVID-19 vaccination rate by Alberta community

One man flew in from Toronto the last time around, drove to the site, got his shot and flew home, she said.

“We had a car full of 18-year-old girls and another car full of 18-year-old boys,” Healy said.

“They were all coming to get their first vaccination. They were all celebrating it.”

Southern Alberta residents line up to get shots of a COVID-19 vaccine from a Montana tribe in Carway, Alta., Tuesday, May 18, 2021. Jeff McIntosh, The Canadian Press

Catherine Bechard, regional Indigenous Affairs adviser for the Canada Border Services Agency, said she jumped at a chance to help out at the clinic.

Story continues below advertisement

“It’s just an amazing thing what they’re doing and a gift they’re giving to Canadians,” Bechard said.

Read more: ‘Great Alberta summer’: Kenney says reopening plan for Alberta in the works

Dave and Cathy Goodbrand also drove the 260 kilometres from Calgary to get their second shots.

“We’re happy to get down here. It’s a relief. Four months is too long to wait in between vaccines,” said Cathy Goodbrand.

“It’s absolutely beautiful. The Blackfoot Indians are just coming through (for us).”

Catherine Bechard, a CBSA regional Indigenous Affairs advisor, walks along a line-up of southern Alberta residents waiting to get shots of a COVID-19 vaccine from a Montana tribe in Carway, Alta., Tuesday, May 18, 2021. Jeff McIntosh, The Canadian Press

Sponsored content