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Politics Montana tribe gifts vaccines to neighbors across the border

08:50  05 may  2021
08:50  05 may  2021 Source:   msn.com

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The Blackfeet Nation in Montana set up a Covid-19 vaccination clinic on the Canadian border to share their surplus doses with their neighbors to the north. The tribal nation had extra vaccines after inoculating the majority of its members so set up a mobile clinic at the Carway border crossing Lines of cars stretched almost two miles to receive one of the 750 shots available. “I am actually brought to tears today hearing that the efforts to assist our relatives and folks across the medicine line with vaccines has been awesome,” said public information officer with the Blackfeet Tribe Piita’hkotokii

A recent donation of COVID-19 vaccines from the Aamskapi’Piikuni Blackfeet Nation in Browning, Montana to nearby residents in Alberta inspired gratitude for the in-demand gift , as well as criticism toward the federal and provincial governments' response to distribution. The Blackfeet Nation made the donation of surplus supply after immunizing the majority of its members with both doses of the vaccine . “We don’t want to waste our extra vaccines , so we put this idea together and look what it did,” James McNeely, the public information officer with the Blackfeet Tribe in Browning said in a release.

BABB, Mont. (AP) — On a cloudy spring day, hundreds lined up in their cars on the Canadian side of the border crossing that separates Alberta and Montana. They had driven for hours and camped out in their vehicles in hopes of receiving the season’s hottest commodity — a COVID-19 vaccine — from a Native American tribe that was giving out its excess doses.

In this Thursday, April 29, 2021, photo, Roberta Wagner, foreground, a health clinic administrator for the Blackfeet tribe, prepares COVID-19 vaccine doses to be administered to Canadian residents at the Piegan-Carway border crossing near Babb, Mont. The Blackfeet tribe gave out surplus vaccines in April to its First Nations relatives and others from across the border. (AP Photo/Iris Samuels): Virus Outbreak Border Vaccines © Provided by Associated Press Virus Outbreak Border Vaccines

The Blackfeet tribe in northern Montana provided about 1,000 surplus vaccines last month to its First Nations relatives and others from across the border, in an illustration of the disparity in speed at which the United States and Canada are distributing doses. While more than 30% of adults in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, in Canada that figure is about 3%.

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The Blackfeet Nation in Montana offered their extra supply of COVID-19 vaccines to Alberta residents at a mobile immunization clinic set up at the border . People drove for hours and lined up for miles on the highway to be vaccinated at a mobile clinic set up at the border crossing. pic.twitter.com/7gdjVYvT9F. — CeeJay Yellow Hawk (@AdriftAlchemist) May 2, 2021. Alberta residents who participated in the mobile vaccine clinic were given an exemption from the 14-day mandatory quarantine period for travellers returning to Canada by the Medical Officer of Health in Canada, since

PLEASE keep our Blackfeet relatives in your prayers. Their community has suffered a great loss 3yo Arden Pepion. After 10 days of grueling search efforts, they've made the hard decision to scale back their efforts. They did this while still vaccinating our Canadian relatives. I feel like crying That was nice of them, shame on those who have access to the vaccine and don't want to get vaccinated .

Among those who received the vaccine at the Piegan-Carway border crossing were Sherry Cross Child and Shane Little Bear, of Stand Off, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of the border.

They recited a prayer in the Blackfoot language before nurses began administering shots, with Chief Mountain — sacred to the Blackfoot people — rising in the distance. The prayer was dedicated to people seeking refuge from the virus, Cross Child said.

In this Thursday, April 29, 2021, photo, a Blackfeet tribe nurse examines a delivery of Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines that will be given to Canadian residents at the Piegan-Carway border crossing near Babb, Mont. The Blackfeet tribe gave out surplus vaccines to its First Nations relatives and others from across the border. (AP Photo/Iris Samuels) © Provided by Associated Press In this Thursday, April 29, 2021, photo, a Blackfeet tribe nurse examines a delivery of Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines that will be given to Canadian residents at the Piegan-Carway border crossing near Babb, Mont. The Blackfeet tribe gave out surplus vaccines to its First Nations relatives and others from across the border. (AP Photo/Iris Samuels)

Cross Child and her husband have family and friends in Montana but have not been able to visit them since the border closed last spring to all but essential travel.

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POINT ROBERTS, Wash. — Point Roberts is offering their excess COVID-19 vaccines to their neighbors across the border . Fire Chief Christopher Carleton says his isolated Whatcom County community is pretty well covered and they’d like to be able to give their extras to American citizens living in British Columbia. He said it would be a win-win for both countries if people were vaccinated in Point Roberts without having to isolate for 14 days when returning to Canada.

Nearby tribes gave the Little Shell gifts , including star quilts or blankets, a Native American tradition.Credit Tailyr Irvine/High Country News. The Little Shell are now shopping for a land base, though they first have to raise funds to buy it. It will not be a reservation, but land to build a tribal The director of the Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribal College in Pablo, Mont., announced last week that Little Shell students would now be eligible to attend their school tuition-free. Despite the Little Shell’s success at long last, the process for winning federal recognition is “broken,” several of those gathered

“It’s been stressful because we had some deaths in the family, and they couldn’t come,” she said. “Just for the support – they rely on us, and we rely on them. It’s been tough.”

More than 95% of the Blackfeet reservation's roughly 10,000 residents who are eligible for the vaccine are fully immunized, after the state prioritized Native American communities — among the most vulnerable U.S. populations — in the early stages of its vaccination campaign.

The tribe received vaccine allotments both from the Montana health department and the federal Indian Health Service, leaving some doses unused. With an expiration date fast approaching, it turned to other nations in the Blackfoot Confederacy, which includes the Blackfeet and three tribes in southern Alberta that share a language and culture.

“The idea was to get to our brothers and sisters that live in Canada,” said Robert DesRosier, emergency services manager for the Blackfeet tribe. “And then the question came up – what if a nontribal member wants a vaccine? Well, this is about saving lives. We’re not going to turn anybody away.”

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But the pace of vaccinations varies across the country. Several states in the South and West, for example, have vaccinated a smaller share of their population with a first or single dose than in other regions. 20. Some states, including Alaska, North Dakota and Utah, are supposed to receive supplements for tribal governments that have elected to receive their vaccines through the state, rather than through the federal Indian Health Service. In addition to delivering vaccines to states, territories and some federal agencies, the C.D.C. also distributes doses to three small countries that

Since the border closed four months ago, only four other guests have been questioned about their plates. One was an American who had been in Canada since before the border restrictions, another was in the military and said he was an essential worker. The other two were let off with a warning. “Hey, how’d you get across the border ,” a guy on a beater bike called to me as I was parked at the corner of Buffalo and Bear streets. When I told him I was a citizen, he retreated. “I was just wondering,” he said, cautioning that some locals get furious when they see U.S. plates.

In this Thursday, April 29, 2021, photo, a U.S. Border Patrol agent directs a driver after the passenger received a COVID-19 vaccine from nurses of the Blackfeet tribe at the Piegan-Carway border crossing near Babb, Mont. The Blackfeet tribe in northern Montana gave out surplus vaccines in April to its First Nations relatives and others from across the border. (AP Photo/Iris Samuels) © Provided by Associated Press In this Thursday, April 29, 2021, photo, a U.S. Border Patrol agent directs a driver after the passenger received a COVID-19 vaccine from nurses of the Blackfeet tribe at the Piegan-Carway border crossing near Babb, Mont. The Blackfeet tribe in northern Montana gave out surplus vaccines in April to its First Nations relatives and others from across the border. (AP Photo/Iris Samuels)

The tribe distributed the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines over four days in late April at the remote Piegan Port of Entry, amid a backdrop of rolling grasslands to the east and Glacier National Park's snow-covered peaks to the west.

As news of the effort spread in Canada, first by word of mouth, then through social platforms and media reports, people traveled from farther away. Some drove five hours from the city of Edmonton.

The effort was particularly timely as Alberta sees a surge in new cases of the respiratory virus, with a caseload record reached this month.

Bonnie Healy, Blackfoot Confederacy health administrator, said she was glad the vaccination effort reached both First Nations and other communities in the province.

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“We have family members that live in those areas,” she said. “If we can get these places safe, then it’s safe for our children to go to school there. It’s safe for our elders to go shopping in their stores.”

Canadians who got the vaccines were not allowed to linger in the U.S. They returned home with letters from health officials exempting them from the mandatory 14-day quarantine imposed on all those entering the country.

The tribe’s initiative is one of a few partnerships that have cropped up between communities in the U.S. and Canada, where residents might otherwise have to wait weeks or months for a shot. Canada has lagged in vaccinating its population because it lacks the ability to manufacture the vaccine and has had to rely on the global supply chain for the lifesaving shots, like many other countries.

In Alaska, Gov. Mike Dunleavy has offered COVID-19 vaccines to residents of Stewart, British Columbia, with hopes it could lead the Canadian government to ease restrictions between that town and the Alaska border community of Hyder, a couple of miles away. In North Dakota, Gov. Doug Burgum and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister unveiled a plan last month to administer vaccinations to Manitoba-based truck drivers transporting goods to and from the U.S.

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In this Thursday, April 29, 2021, photo, Sherry Cross Child and Shane Little Bear, residents of Stand Off, Alberta, recite a prayer ahead of a vaccination clinic held in Montana for Canadian residents at the Piegan-Carway border crossing near Babb, Mont. The Blackfeet tribe gave out surplus vaccines to its First Nations relatives and others from across the border. (AP Photo/Iris Samuels) © Provided by Associated Press In this Thursday, April 29, 2021, photo, Sherry Cross Child and Shane Little Bear, residents of Stand Off, Alberta, recite a prayer ahead of a vaccination clinic held in Montana for Canadian residents at the Piegan-Carway border crossing near Babb, Mont. The Blackfeet tribe gave out surplus vaccines to its First Nations relatives and others from across the border. (AP Photo/Iris Samuels)

On the Montana side of the border, vaccine recipients were often emotional, shedding tears, shouting words of gratitude through car windows as they drove away, and handing the nurses gifts such as chocolate and clothing. Some shared stories about what the vaccine meant to them – the possibility of safely caring for vulnerable loved ones, reuniting with grandparents or traveling again.

Recipients included 17-year-olds who are low on the country’s priority list and parents who camped out with their young children in the backseat.

In this Thursday, April 29, 2021, photo, nurses interview patients through their car windows after providing them with COVID-19 vaccines at the Piegan-Carway border crossing after they drove from Canada to Montana to receive excess doses from the Blackfeet tribe, near Babb, Mont. (AP Photo/Iris Samuels) © Provided by Associated Press In this Thursday, April 29, 2021, photo, nurses interview patients through their car windows after providing them with COVID-19 vaccines at the Piegan-Carway border crossing after they drove from Canada to Montana to receive excess doses from the Blackfeet tribe, near Babb, Mont. (AP Photo/Iris Samuels)

Maxwell Stein, 25, who plays the horn with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, arrived at the border crossing at 6 p.m. Wednesday and spent the night in his car, finally reaching the front of the line around 10 a.m. Thursday.

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“It wasn’t awesome, but you do what you need to to get a vaccine,” he said. He predicted that if he had waited in Canada, he’d likely get his first dose sometime in late June, and it would be months before he would be fully vaccinated.

In this Thursday, April 29, 2021, photo, Sherry Cross Child and Shane Little Bear, residents of Stand Off, Alberta, recite a prayer ahead of a vaccination clinic held in Montana for Canadian residents at the Piegan-Carway border crossing near Babb, Mont. The Blackfeet tribe gave out surplus vaccines to its First Nations relatives and others from across the border. (AP Photo/Iris Samuels) © Provided by Associated Press In this Thursday, April 29, 2021, photo, Sherry Cross Child and Shane Little Bear, residents of Stand Off, Alberta, recite a prayer ahead of a vaccination clinic held in Montana for Canadian residents at the Piegan-Carway border crossing near Babb, Mont. The Blackfeet tribe gave out surplus vaccines to its First Nations relatives and others from across the border. (AP Photo/Iris Samuels)

The Canadian government has recommended extending the interval between the two doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines from around three weeks to four months, with the goal of quickly inoculating more people amid the shortage. Some who attended the Blackfeet clinics had already gotten their first shot in Canada. More than 30% of Canada’s population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, but around 3% have received both doses recommended by the drug manufacturers to reach full immunity. Canadian officials say partial immunity is better than none.

In this Thursday, April 29, 2021, photo, Canadians drive-in at the Piegan-Carway border to receive a COVID-19 from the Blackfeet tribe near Babb, Mont. The Chief Mountain, sacred to the Blackfeet tribe towers, are seen in the background. The Blackfeet tribe gave out surplus vaccines to its First Nations relatives and others from across the border. (AP Photo/Iris Samuels) © Provided by Associated Press In this Thursday, April 29, 2021, photo, Canadians drive-in at the Piegan-Carway border to receive a COVID-19 from the Blackfeet tribe near Babb, Mont. The Chief Mountain, sacred to the Blackfeet tribe towers, are seen in the background. The Blackfeet tribe gave out surplus vaccines to its First Nations relatives and others from across the border. (AP Photo/Iris Samuels)

“It’s unfortunate because one shot only protects you slightly,” Stein said. “With vaccines, I think it’s really important to get the correct dosage in the right time period, so your body builds up the full resistance.”

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When Stein heard about the vaccine clinic on the border, he didn’t hesitate about the long drive, particularly as a professional musician who has a lot of free time with many concerts canceled.

“Really, I have no excuse. If I had to drive 10 hours to get the Pfizer or Moderna, I probably would have done it,” he said.

___

Samuels is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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