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As the U.S. sends more Moderna doses to Canada, calls ramp up to reopen border

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    OTTAWA, Ontario (CTV Network) — The U.S. is gearing up to send one million additional doses of the Moderna vaccine to Canada at the same time calls mount on both sides of the border to ease travel and quarantine measures.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand tweeted about the latest vaccine shipment Thursday, thanking the Biden administration and Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. Kirsten Hillman. The shipment is outside of the government’s contract with the company itself and is instead part of the president’s previously announced global vaccine donation strategy.

“There aren’t additional conditions on the usability of those doses and I will say that the agreement is a result of a continuous negotiations that we have been in with the United States government since January 2021,” said Anand speaking to reporters later in the day.

The doses will arrive on Canadian soil later this evening and will bring the total amount of Moderna doses shipped to the country to 10.1 million.

Anand said she will provide more details about specific deliveries from the supplier arriving in July during a vaccine update on Friday and restated that the government still expects to receive 55 million COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of that month.

“This is very important for our country, because we need to continue the march towards having all people who wish to have one, have a second shot,” she said.

The same day, tourism groups and Canadian and U.S. politicians participated in a panel discussion about the need to reopen the border to support hurting industries and businesses at risk of permanently closing due to the pandemic.

The restrictions placed on the Canada-U.S. border that prohibit discretionary travel but exempt the flow of trade and commerce, as well as vital health-care workers such as nurses who live and work on opposite sides of the border, have been in place since March 2020 and are set to expire on June 21.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc indicated this week that the government will have more to say on the issue before that deadline as to the “phased” approach to reopening.

New York Rep. Chris Jacobs, who sat on the panel, introduced last week the “Northern Border Reopening Transparency Act” that would require the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to report back to congress within 30 days on a plan to reopen the border.

On Thursday he said he was “heartened” to hear of the shipment of vaccines being sent to Canada and hopes it may help accelerate progress.

“We need laser focus on this. Every day that is delayed is a day that people are going to make travel plans to go somewhere else. If we open in mid-August, I don’t know how helpful that will be because everybody will have already scheduled things elsewhere,” he said.

“We’re coming up on the June 21 date and I really hope it’s not more of the same.”

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Ontario-based Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, also on the panel, said there is often a “false conflict” between economic and health needs, when both can be prioritized. He also emphasized the need for some form of vaccine documentation to allow the free flow of travel between the two countries.

“Proof of immunity is not going to be easy in every circumstance but when we see the state of New York with an Excelsior application that can easily integrate with the AriveCAN app, there are obvious opportunities for allowing freer travel in the immediate term,” he said.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair stated on CTV News Channel’s Power Play last week that the AriveCAN app, which provides travel information upon entering Canada, could soon be used to verify travellers’ vaccine certification.

“[Canada Border Services Agency] is working to include a system of vaccine verification within the ArriveCAN app, but even more broadly so that we can be more fully integrated with the Americans but also with our international partners. There’s really significant ongoing work and it’s actually being led by our immigration services in the development of other tools,” he said on June 10.

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