Neilson, who is from Cardston, Alta., Was in one of hundreds of vehicles lined up at the Carway crossing in southern Alberta to get a free COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile clinic set up on the American side of the border. The Blackfeet tribe, based in Montana just 150 kilometers south of Lethbridge, Alta., Had an abundance of vaccines and decided last month to share them with Canadians rather than let them go to waste. Initially, it was just open to First Nations, but the tribe quickly decided to offer it to everyone.
“I’m going to have it all done, finally. It feels good. It’s been a bit of a wait, but it’s worth it, ”said Neilson, who received his first shot from Moderna in March.
“I was amazed and grateful because it is too slow to do it any other way. We’re just glad they were able to help us. “
Initially, it took about a week to get approval from the tribal administration and the governments of Canada and the United States to set up the mobile clinic.
Albertans attending the clinic are exempt from quarantine for 14 days. They line up in their cars, drive through a loop that takes them just across the border, get their photos out the window, are watched for 15 minutes and drive home.
Blackfeet Tribe health workers and Montana National Guard members administer the vaccine.
The Blackfeet Tribe offered their first two-day clinic in late April, vaccinating more than 450 people.
Sleep in cars, drive hundreds of miles
Tuesday marked the second offer of shots. The queue was over a mile at 9 a.m. Some people slept in their cars on the freeway and on road allowances to make sure they had a turn before supplies ran out.
This is what happened to Ken Sawatzky when he made the 620 kilometer round trip from Calgary a few weeks ago. He wanted to be vaccinated because his wife has cancer.
He made the same long road trip on Tuesday.
“She is fully vaccinated. This will ensure that we are both safe, as I am his caregiver as well. I think it’s a good thing, ”Sawatzky said.
“I can’t wait to get there. I will sleep better. “
“I couldn’t believe it was so hard to get a chance in Canada”
Bonnie Healy, director of health for the Blackfoot Confederacy, helped coordinate the vaccination clinic. She said the response was overwhelming.
“I found it hard to believe that it was so difficult to get the vaccine in Canada. Lots of people come in for a second dose, ”Healy said.
A man arrived from Toronto the last time, went to the site, was shot and returned 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 all came to receive their first vaccination. They all celebrated it. “
Catherine Bechard, regional Indigenous affairs advisor for the Canada Border Services Agency, said she jumped at the opportunity to help at the clinic.
“What they do and it’s a gift they give to Canadians is just amazing,” said Bechard.
Dave and Cathy Goodbrand also drove the 260 km Calgary to get their second shots.
“We are happy to come here. It is a relief. Four months is too long to wait between vaccines, ”said Cathy Goodbrand.
“It’s absolutely beautiful. The Blackfoot Indians have just passed (for us). “
Alberta Takes Milestone in Tackling Highest Case Rate
Alberta reported 877 new cases of COVID-19 and 20,013 active cases on Tuesday. The total number of cases has gradually declined since the United Conservative Party government imposed tighter public health restrictions after the total number of active cases hit a new high earlier in the month.
Alberta has had the highest rate of active cases per 100,000 population of any province and territory in Canada for weeks.
However, the province said on Tuesday it had reached a milestone, with more than half of Albertans aged 12 and over now vaccinated with at least one dose.
- To see how many people have been vaccinated in each region of Alberta, by age and over, see: