DRAYTON, N.D. – Dozens of truckers, most of them Canadians, made a planned stop at a rest area near Drayton on Wednesday, April 28, to receive their first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from the North Dakota Department of Health.

The truckers – and anyone else 16 and older – are eligible to receive the vaccine and a booster next month at no cost through the Essential Workers Cross-Border Vaccination Initiative, per an agreement between North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister. The initiative allows truckers and others who want to be vaccinated to receive them at a North Dakota Department of Health trailer parked at the rest stop south of Drayton. The department's staff will give the vaccinations from noon until 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays for the next five to seven weeks.

More than 300 people received vaccines at the location during the first round of vaccinations April 21-23, said Duane Ell, North Dakota Department of Health Emergency Response and Preparedness logistics chief of COVID operations.

"We’re hoping to get 150 or so today,” Ell said Wednesday, April 28. Burgum's office estimates that 2,000 to 4,000 Manitoba drivers will participate in the program, which is the first of its kind between a Canadian and U.S. jurisdiction, according to a news release.

The Manitoba Trucking Association and its members are working with the province to identify and coordinate eligible people and work with North Dakota to schedule appointments. The North Dakota Department of Health is providing nurses and other staff to administer the first and second doses of the vaccinations. The U.S. government is supplying the vaccinations and is reimbursing the administration costs, so there is no cost to North Dakota or Manitoba, the news release said.

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Several North Dakota Department of Health workers were on hand at the Drayton rest stop Wednesday, April 28, some directing traffic, others helping people fill out paperwork and get registered for their COVID-19 vaccinations. Inside a trailer, nurses checked patients in and administered the shots.

“It’s pretty cool, this little set-up here,” said Misti MacKay, a North Dakota Department of Health nurse who was helping give the vaccinations. "Everyone is so grateful we’re here.”

One of them was Judy Siemens, who was filling out paperwork for her first Moderna vaccination early in the afternoon. The vaccination site was convenient for Siemens, a driver for Portage Transport who was hauling a load from Winnipeg, where she lives, to Oklahoma City, she said.

“I think it’s good that Manitoba and North Dakota are doing this. Definitely we should be on the top of the list because we go everywhere,” Siemens said.

Helmut Beckman, 69, felt more protected from contracting COVID-19 after receiving his first round of the vaccination, he said. He stopped at the Drayton rest stop on his way from Poplar Point, Manitoba, a town about 30 miles west of Winnipeg, to Fargo with a load.

“I’m almost 70 years old. It’s always in the back of my mind,” he said. “I very much appreciate that North Dakotans are doing this for Canadians.”

Alex Rosenblum, who sat at a picnic table at the rest stop, waiting for the required 15 minutes after the vaccination, also expressed his appreciation for the Essential Workers Cross-Border Vaccination Initiative and the efficiency of the North Dakota Department of Health, which moved people through the process quickly.

Once Rosenblum's 15-minute wait was over, he intended to be back on the road to St. John's, Mich., where he would deliver his load.

“It is good for us,” he said. "In Canada, it’s so slow."