Alaska’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, measures a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for a clinic held in Hyder, Alaska, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. State health officials have said Alaska has an ample supply of COVID-19 vaccines, and Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said he wanted to offer vaccines not only to residents of Hyder but also to Canadians across the border from Hyder in Stewart, British Columbia. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

Alaska’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, measures a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for a clinic held in Hyder, Alaska, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. State health officials have said Alaska has an ample supply of COVID-19 vaccines, and Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said he wanted to offer vaccines not only to residents of Hyder but also to Canadians across the border from Hyder in Stewart, British Columbia. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

Alaska governor shares COVID vaccine supply with small B.C. town

The hope is it could lead to the Canada easing restrictions between Stewart, B.C., and Hyder, Alaska

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has offered COVID-19 vaccines to residents of the small British Columbia town of Stewart, with hopes it could lead the Canadian government to ease restrictions between Stewart and the tiny Alaska border community of Hyder a couple miles away.

“Our neighbours to the east are fantastic. We couldn’t ask for better neighbours than the Canadians. But the virus has really hit them hard and as a result, their mitigating approaches have affected us greatly by slowing down traffic, limiting traffic,” Dunleavy told The Associated Press as he ended a long day of travel across southeast Alaska late last week.

The trip included travel from Ketchikan to Hyder on a float plane that held seven people, including the pilot. The AP was the only news organization travelling with Dunleavy and got a first-hand look at the Republican governor as he met with local leaders and residents in Ketchikan, Hyder and Metlakatla, the only Indian reserve in Alaska, to hear how they have been impacted by the pandemic and about their top priorities and concerns.

Hyder and Stewart are closely linked. Hyder residents get gas and groceries in Stewart, and kids from Hyder go to school there. Hyder even shares an area code with its Canadian neighbour and runs on Pacific time, an hour ahead of most of the rest of Alaska. Stewart has around 400 residents. Hyder, with an estimated population of nearly 70, flies a banner declaring itself “the friendliest ghost town in Alaska.”

Dunleavy referred to Hyder and Stewart as “one community in two countries.”

With COVID-19, travel in Canada has been restricted to essential business. Hyder residents say they can’t visit the homes of friends in Stewart, and Stewart Mayor Gina McKay said her residents are largely restricted from going to Hyder, including for recreational activities they were accustomed to, such as snowmobile riding and using Hyder’s boat launch to fish.

“It’s been tough on both sides,” she said.

Hyder is the only community in Alaska’s southernmost reaches accessible by road — a road that runs through Stewart. Hyder, at the head of a fjord, has a dock for float planes, but air travel can be limited by weather conditions.

Dunleavy said he invited the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, “on the spur of the moment” to accompany him Thursday and offer vaccines not only to Hyder residents who had not yet been vaccinated but also to people from Stewart.

He said he reasoned that, because the state has an adequate vaccine supply, “why not share it with them and try to get them vaccinated?”

In March, Alaska was the first state to fully open eligibility for vaccines and allow anyone 16 or older who lives or works in the state to get a vaccine. Dunleavy, seeking to revive a state tourism industry battered by the pandemic, recently announced travellers could get vaccines at some Alaska airports starting June 1.

McKay said many Stewart residents received a first vaccine dose during a weeklong clinic in Stewart around Easter but the wait time for a second dose is up to four months. British Columbia health officials said the approach is intended to make the most of a limited vaccine supply and allow more people to get first doses.

In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a second dose of the Pfizer vaccine three weeks after a first dose and a second dose of the Moderna vaccine four weeks after a first dose. Both are widely used in Alaska and among the vaccines used in Canada.

Zink said 19 people from Canada, most from Stewart, got shots Thursday in Hyder and one person from Hyder did. Zink administered the vaccines in a parking lot outside a community building given the warm, sunny weather. Some of the other Canadians who received vaccines were working in the area.

She said Stewart is “pretty well vaccinated,” and that the clinic there said it would send over people who were interested but not yet vaccinated. She said she thinks those were among the people who showed up Thursday. Most of the shots given Thursday were first doses, Zink said.

There are plans to work with state public health nurses to return to the area and Zink said they could bring additional second doses so that if anyone in Stewart wanted a second dose at that time, they could get one.

Dunleavy said he hopes that as more people get vaccinated “then maybe just maybe there’s a possibility that those two small communities that are really one can get back together and get back to living life as normal.”

McKay, who met with Dunleavy, a state senator and interested Hyder residents on a dusty section of road at the border, called the state’s offer to share vaccines incredible. If Stewart residents could get second doses that way, it could free up doses for others in British Columbia, she said.

But McKay said she’s not sure how soon the Canadian federal government might ease any travel restrictions. She said as restrictions have persisted, “I’m starting to forget what normal was like and worrying that this is the new normal.”

Becky Bohrer, The Associated Press

Coronavirus

Just Posted

Prince Charles Secondary School
School District 8 votes in favour of name change for Secondary School in Creston

In an act of reconciliation, a new name will be chosen for Prince Charles Secondary School

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

In conjunction with the exhibition, Kimberley Arts at Centre 64 hired local Graffiti artist Jamie Cross to paint a mural that is serving as the backdrop for a public photo booth.
The annual “Artrageous” open art exhibition at Centre 64

Have you stopped in at Centre 64 lately? The gallery has been… Continue reading

The Kimberley Refugee Resettlement Group is active again after a few years off and are working to find a home for Gloria in Kimberley. Photo taken at a KRRG fundraiser several years ago. Bulletin file.
Kimberley Refugee Resettlement Group active once more

KRRG working to find a refugee a safe place to live in Kimberley

The Kimberley Aquatic Centre is set to reopen its doors to the public on July 6, after being shut down due to the pandemic in March, 2020. The Centre will be initially operating with reduced occupancy and limited program offerings. Bulletin file.
Kimberley Aquatic Centre set to re-open July 6

New safety infrastructure, limited guests and programming allow facility to open again

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

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

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read