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

Environment Canada has issued a thunderstorm watch for the Cariboo north including Quesnel. (Black Press file image)
Environment Canada issues thunderstorm watch for Quesnel

A chance of thundershowers is forcasted to last until Tuesday

The Gold Pan Grannies attended the Quesnel Farmers’ Market where they sold perennials and vegetable plants and fruit trees by donation Saturday, May 29. They were able to raise $1,000 for the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Gold Pan Grannies raise $1,000 for Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign

Annual plant sale at Quesnel Farmers’ Market a success

Amy Vardy is one of four dancers to compete in their final year of the Quesnel Festival of the Performing Arts. (Submitted Photo)
Quesnel Festival of the Arts graduating dancer profile: Amy Vardy

The Quesnel Festival of the Performing arts is honouring their graduating dancers

Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)
RANCH MUSINGS: Predictions of climate variability and effects on agriculture

Oliver Rujanschi, we will miss you and the warmth that you were. Sorry friend

Emily Nelson is one of four graduating dancers honoured by the Quesnel Festival of the Performing Arts.(Submitted Photo - Robyn Louise Photography)
Quesnel Festival of the Arts graduating dancer profile: Emily Nelson

The Festival of the Arts is honouring graduating dancers

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Most Read