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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Joan Septembre went for a weekend hike at Lindeman Lake, parking next to a vehicle that had two windows smashed in. (submitted photo)
Thieves active at Lindeman Lake and other parking spots along Chilliwack Lake Road

The hiking community is lamenting an uptick in car theft and vandalism as the weather gets nicer

Coho smolts. (Tanis Grower photo)
OPINION: A giant, invisible problem for Fraser salmon and how to fix it

‘Successful examples of salmon-friendly flood control can already be found throughout the Lower Mainland’

Members of the Miami River Streamkeepers Society released 5,000 chum salmon fry into the Miami River on April 28. This is part of an ongoing effort to preserve and support local aquatic wildlife. (Photo/Janne Perrin)
Students and streamkeepers release salmon fry into local waterways

Agassiz Christian students have been raising salmon since January as part of class program

Chilliwack volunteer drivers are needed to help get cancer patients back and forth to Abbotsford (shown here), Surrey and Vancouver cancer clinics. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Volunteer drivers needed to expand cancer driver program to Chilliwack

Drivers will need to commit to one full day of driving, or two half days each week

The District of Kent Community Recreation and Cultural Centre. (Photo/District of Kent)
District fitness instructors welcomed into CUPE

More than 500 government employees across the Fraser Valley are part of the union

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are in the Comox Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Suspected bird strike on Snowbirds plane during training in B.C.

Pilot followed protocols and landed the aircraft on the ground without any problems

BCIT. (Wikimedia Commons)
BCIT apologizes after employee’s ‘offensive and hurtful’ email leaked to Métis Nation

BCIT says employee’s conduct has been investigated and addressed

An adult male yellow-breasted chat is shown in this undatd photograph on lands protected in collaboration between the En’owkin Centre and Penticton Indian Band with support through ECCC. The rescue from near extinction for a little yellow bird hinges on the wild rose in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, a researcher says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, A. Michael Bezener/ En’owkin Centre 2020 *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Rare yellow birds need wild roses to survive in British Columbia: researcher

The importance of local wild roses emerged over a nearly 20-year experiment

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

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

RCMP officers search around rows of luggage carts as screens block off an area of the sidewalk after a shooting outside the international departures terminal at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Police say gang conflict in Metro Vancouver may be behind shooting death at airport

Police said this generation of gangsters is taking things to new level and have no regard for community safety

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Most Read