Canada Says No to An Ambitious Vaccination Plan Using Surplus, Soon-To-Expire Michigan Vaccines


The Canadian government has busted an Ontario mayor's plan to use Michigan's surplus, soon-to-expire Covid-19 vaccine doses to vaccinate Canadian residents in a tunnel on the U.S. border.

In what looked like a movie set up, the mayor of Windsor planned to get American pharmacists to come to the edge of the U.S. border inside the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, connecting Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, and give a vaccine jab into the arms of Canadian residents on the other side.

The interesting vaccination plan straight out of a movie

It was an over the top idea as Canadian officials wouldn't allow U.S. vaccines into their country,

The plan, which The Detroit Free Press reported, was the brainchild of Drew Dilkens, the mayor of Windsor. In an interview on Thursday, he said that medical professionals in Detroit had told him they were throwing extra vaccines into landfills as the demand for the shots in the United States had slowed down.

Since December, Michigan has scrapped nearly 150,000 unused vaccine doses, said Lynn Sutfin, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Health and Human Services.

In addition to approaching expiration dates, she said, they discarded the doses because of broken syringes or vials.

The Canadian government has not allowed those Michigan surplus vaccines to enter the country, so Mr. Dilkens figured his tunnel plan would keep the doses in Michigan and his residents in Canada and thereby avoid any violations. He even arranged for a white line to be painted along the border in the tunnel to avoid any disputes and confusion.

"When the Canadians go down, their feet will stay on the right side of the line," he said, "and the U.S. folks, their feet stand on the left."

The challenge to move ahead

The Detroit River that separates Windsor from Detroit may only be a half-mile wide, but Mr. Dilkens soon found out that vaccinating his residents wasn't going to be as easy as driving the extra doses to the edge of the border.

"It opened a whole Pandora's box," he said.

The tunnel has been closed to most traffic since early in the pandemic, but it's open to essential workers and business truck traffic. In a letter shared with The New York Times last month, the mayor's office wrote that closing the tunnel for the proposed vaccination effort could disrupt trade and have "significant security implications."

However, Mr. Dilkens said he had recommended shutting down the tunnel only during off-peak times.

"I'm not trying to set off an international incident," he said.

Mr. Dilkens speculates that the Canadian government blocked his application for a mid-tunnel, cross-border vaccination site because they wanted to avoid an inferiority complex.

"The fact that we had to go to, you know, 'Look at these poor Canadians having to get vaccine supply from those rich Americans,'" he said, "it would have stressed the condition of the state that we were in."

Canada had always lagged behind the United States in distributing vaccines to its people but has recently caught up.

According to Canada's government's health database, nearly 68% of Canadians have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and almost 36% are fully vaccinated.

According to a Times database, in the United States, where demand for vaccines has cooled in recent weeks, nearly 56% of Americans have received at least one dose, and just over 43% are fully vaccinated.

According to state public health officials, more than a quarter of a million doses in Michigan will expire in the next few weeks. Demand for the vaccine is dropping in the state because almost two-thirds of residents have at least received one dose. Even after the lottery announced by Gov. Whitmer the vaccination rates are not so great.

Mr. Dilkens wanted to inoculate Windsor residents using 5,000 vials of Pfizer's vaccine from Michigan. This would have benefited many of whom are only partially vaccinated against Covid-19.

About 60% of people in Windsor ages 12 and older are partially vaccinated, the mayor said.

Mr. Dilkens said, "For now, the residents of Windsor are so desperate for vaccines that some even suggested the city open a vaccination center in the middle of the Detroit River,"

"We're not going to do that," he said. "In the final analysis, we are trying to get people fully vaccinated."

The intention seemed noble, but that doesn't seem to be enough to convince the Canadian government. So Windsor residents will have to wait for a few more days.

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