Manitoba premier issues ‘call to arms’ for more COVID-19 vaccines from U.S.

Click to play video: 'Manitoba premier issues ‘call to arms’ for more COVID-19 vaccines from U.S.'
Manitoba premier issues ‘call to arms’ for more COVID-19 vaccines from U.S.
WATCH: Manitoba premier issues ‘call to arms’ for more COVID-19 vaccines from U.S – May 22, 2021

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is calling on the United States government to allow unneeded COVID-19 vaccines to be shipped into the province.

“We have trucks with freezers ready to go to points in the United States within a few hours to pick up those vaccines,” Pallister said during a press conference Saturday morning.

“We could have them back by tonight; we could be vaccinating additional Manitobans tomorrow.”

Pallister says health officials have informed him an additional 100,000 Manitobans could be vaccinated within 10 days if vaccine supply allowed.

Read more: Manitoba reports 594 new COVID-19 cases, 3 additional deaths connected to the virus

A North Dakota–Manitoba partnership that has seen more than 1,000 Manitoba truckers get their shot on the other side of the border was “a good first step,” the premier said, but still wasn’t enough.

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“The best solution is not to have Canadians going across the border in small numbers for vaccines. The best solution is to have vaccines coming up from the United States in large numbers,” Pallister said.

The province’s two main opposition parties were quick to condemn the premier’s announcement, saying it was nonsensical to blame the U.S. for the health-care crisis unfolding domestically.

“It is pathetic to call a weekend press conference to pick a fight with the White House: it is a waste of precious time in a crisis,” Manitoba Liberal leader Dougald Lamont wrote in a release.

“When Manitobans need life-preservers, Pallister keeps tossing out anchors.”

Click to play video: 'Manitoba grapples with COVID-19 surge, asks Ottawa for help'
Manitoba grapples with COVID-19 surge, asks Ottawa for help

NDP leader Wab Kinew called it a “very desperate attempt to shift blame away from the crisis going on in our health-care system here in Manitoba.”

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Kinew also disputed claims Pallister made, saying the U.S. has in fact been shipping vaccines into the country since April, and he’d “be surprised if a plan from Manitoba has ever made its way to the White House.”

The Prime Minister’s Office referred to a conversation between Justin Trudeau and Pallister only a day earlier, in which the pair discussed an ongoing partnership between the provincial and federal government to mitigate the ongoing third wave.

A government official wouldn’t confirm whether or not Ottawa has asked President Biden for additional vaccines, but instead pointed to a government website, showing well over 830,000 vaccines had already been distributed to Manitoba, many of which came from the U.S.

“We are thankful for the doses that came from the U.S. recently, and we remain in close contact with them,” the official wrote in an email.

This comes two days after Pallister held another address to encourage Manitobans to get vaccinated, and mentioned the province would unveil a vaccine incentive program in the coming week.

Read more: Indigenous Manitobans can make appointments for second dose of vaccine Monday

Earlier this week, the province announced that individuals with certain health conditions would be prioritized for second doses, while all Indigenous Manitobans who had received their first shot at least 21 days ago could begin signing up for second doses as of Monday.

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