Higgins says New York should vaccinate Canadians to speed up border reopening
It’s been 14 months since the U.S.-Canada border was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One way to speed up reopening, according to Congressman Brian Higgins, would be for New York to offer vaccine appointments to Canadian citizens.
Higgins, D-Buffalo, wrote a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo Wednesday, asking him to make vaccines available to Canadian citizens crossing the border.
“It is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also necessary to speed up the resumption of the cross-border commerce that is so important to border communities like Buffalo and Niagara Falls,” Higgins wrote.
Canada has lagged behind the U.S. in allocating vaccines. Just 3% of Canadians are fully vaccinated, compared to about 37% of Americans.
Plus, vaccine demand has flattened across the U.S. Higgins noted all 30 New York state-run vaccine sites have appointments available, and that nearly 50 pharmacy sites near the Peace Bridge have an available supply. The state has even turned to offering free metro rail passes and Buffalo Bisons tickets to incentivize those who are vaccine-hesitant.
Some U.S. border states, like North Dakota and Montana, are already offering vaccine appointments to Canadians. They’re vaccinating Canadian truckers, who are allowed to cross the border while transporting goods.
However, it’s still unclear whether all Canadians are allowed to cross simply for the purpose of getting vaccinated.
Canada's public health agency said earlier this week it considers a vaccine appointment essential travel for crossing the border. However, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said Wednesday it will turn away travelers who are crossing the border only to get vaccinated.
Cuomo’s office did not immediately answer a request for comment about Higgins’ letter.