Canadian residents heading to the United States for COVID-19 vaccinations should be exempt from mandatory quarantine on return if health authorities here deem the shots an essential medical service, a hospital CEO said Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Canadian residents heading to the United States for COVID-19 vaccinations should be exempt from mandatory quarantine on return if health authorities here deem the shots an essential medical service, a hospital CEO said Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

If COVID vaccines ‘essential,’ Canadians could get shots in U.S. and no quarantine

‘How can a COVID vaccine not be considered essential?’ David Musyj said Friday. ‘These vaccines are within reach. Any Canadian can go over there.’

Canadian residents should be able to head to the United States for COVID-19 vaccinations and be exempt from mandatory quarantine on return if health authorities here deem the shots medically necessary, a hospital CEO said on Friday.

Although a vaccination itself does not exempt incoming travellers from quarantine rules, an exemption does exist for those heading abroad for medically essential procedures.

David Musyj, head of Windsor Regional Hospital in the border city of Windsor, Ont., said he has asked the Public Health Agency of Canada whether the government does deem the vaccines medically necessary.

“How can a COVID vaccine not be considered essential?” Musyj said in an interview Friday. “These vaccines are within reach. Any Canadian can go over there.”

Windsor’s mayor has discussed using city transit buses to take residents to a mass vaccine site at Detroit’s Ford Field stadium and bring them back. Musyj said his hospital could help with such an effort but the quarantine requirement for people returning to Canada is an obstacle.

Musyj has now sought clarity on the medical exemption.

According to the rules, a doctor in Canada has to decide a medical service abroad is essential for a patient, and the person must provide proof they received it to avoid quarantine on return.

Musyj said he wants an advance ruling from Health Canada, adding it would be beneficial to access clinics in the U.S. and return without having to isolate.

In an initial response for comment on the hospital’s request, Health Canada said only that a doctor’s recommendation “falls under the practice of medicine, which is of provincial/territorial jurisdiction.”

However, a spokeswoman did say the ministry was looking at allowing Canadians to pick up surplus doses in the U.S. for injection here.

“The government of Canada is currently working with provinces, territories and the United States to determine the feasibility of importing COVID-19 vaccines made available via donation,” Kathleen Marriner said.

What is off the table, Marriner said, is allowing vaccine retrieval from the States under a special import program for urgently needed drugs that are not available in Canada. The program, she said, would not be “appropriate mechanism” to facilitate importation.

While supplies in Canada are ramping up, shortages remain a major obstacle to inoculating the population. The Windsor region in southwestern Ontario alone estimates it still needs about 600,000 doses to fully vaccinate its residents.

At the same time, pharmacies and other vaccination sites across the border are struggling to use their supplies due to a lack of demand. Michigan and other states have said they are willing to offer their excess supply to Canada.

The Windsor hospital had wanted permission under the federal “special access program” to be able to take the Americans up on their offer.

Despite rejecting the program application, Health Canada has asked the hospital several logistical questions, such as how the vaccines would be retrieved, transported and stored, and what security measures would be in place.

Quality, safety and traceability, along with procedures for reporting any adverse reactions, would be key to allowing the imports, Marriner said.

“Health Canada would work with the requester, in collaboration with our federal, provincial and territorial partners, to verify that strict protocols are followed,” Marriner said.

Musyj said it would be simple to drive over to Detroit or other border states and have the vaccines back in Canada within hours.

“They’ve got vaccines to burn over there,” he said. “Let’s go get them.”

Ohio, for example, is giving five vaccinated residents US$1 million each by way of a lottery. New York City is promising free fries, while New Jersey is offering a free beer to first-shot recipients.

“That just shows you what’s happening in the United States to get people vaccinated,” Musyj said.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusUnited Statesvaccines

Just Posted

Grizzly Plaza Revitalization team. Robert Inwood (left), Bill Cameron, Fran Jenkins and Tom Lynn (creators of the bear statues). (Photo from Revelstoke Museum and Archives #10304 TR-853)
Man who redesigned downtown Revelstoke honoured with lifetime achievement award

Robert Inwood has worked on historical projects across the province

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison. Photo courtesy Conservative Party of Canada.
MP Morrison appointed to parliamentary national security committee

Kootenay-Columbia parliamentarian one of five candidates appointed to national security committee

(Pixabay photo)
Morning Start: Hot and cold water have different pouring sounds

Your morning start for Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Bear wanders Kelowna on June 15. (Michelle Wallace/Facebook)
Bear climbs fence, uses crosswalk in Kelowna

The bear was spotted on Baron Road Wednesday evening

This photo of the small wildfire burning above Naramata was taken at 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021 (Monique Tamminga Western News)
BC Wildfire on scene of small wildfire above Naramata

Smoke has been showing since earlier in the day

Students in the Grade 10 entrepreneurship program at Summerland Unisus School have completed a cookbook with international recipes. (Contributed)
Summerland students create virtual international cookbook

Entrepreneurship program at Summerland Unisus School uses virtual cookbook as fundraiser

Hundreds of people, young and old, joined the three-day Walking Our Spirits Home procession, honouring residential school survivors, those who never made it home and all those affected by the institutions. Here people walk the third portion on June 13. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Walking Our Spirits Home from Kamloops provides path to healing

First Nations in and beyond Secwépemc territory join in to honour residential school survivors

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

More flames
Lake Country home destroyed in large blaze, 11 dogs rescued

Fire crews are responding to 10839 Hallam Drive

(Facebook/Kelowna Cabs)
Kelowna Cabs reaches tentative agreement with dispatchers union

The tentative agreement could help end the dispute between the taxi company and the dispatchers

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

Most Read