There is good border news for Canadians who want to visit the United States but who received mixed doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
The White House confirmed Friday morning that land border crossings for vaccinated non-essential travellers will resume on Nov. 8. And later in the day, the Centers for Disease Control confirmed that it will consider those who have received doses of two different vaccines to be fully vaccinated for purposes of entering the country.
“While CDC has not recommended mixing types of vaccines in a primary series, we recognize that this is increasingly common in other countries so should be accepted for their interpretation of vaccine records” the agency said in a statement issued Friday evening.
It added that the change of approach to mixed vaccines for travellers should not guide clinical practice in the U.S.
Earlier in the day, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said in an interview that he was optimistic that news was coming, after his government’s long discussions with the U.S. “We’ve been working with CDC to make sure they have the information on Canada’s mixed dose regime. And so when that advice goes to the White House, then the White House will make a determination based on that advice.
“But we’re pretty confident.”
Blair also said the Canadian government is “considering” at what point it might be able to eliminate its requirement of a negative result from a PCR test for fully vaccinated travellers returning to Canada.
For now, that requirement remains in place because it continues to be the advice of the Public Health Agency of Canada, and Blair said it’s believed to have been “pretty effective” at limiting the importation of COVID-19.
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But Blair also acknowledged that four months of random testing at the border has shown only 0.19 per cent of fully vaccinated travellers entering Canada had COVID-19 — a number he called “very low.”
Blair, whose portfolio includes the Canada Border Services Agency, said he has received a lot of pressure from American congressmen and businesses on both sides of the border, including Canadians who are keen to start day-tripping in the U.S., and who want the PCR test requirement dropped at the land border.
“A lot of people want to get back to that activity, but we don’t have two regimes for people who want day-trip shopping and for Canadians who, for example, have been vacationing for some period of time in the United States and are coming back,” he said.
“So for the time being, we have that requirement in place and it’ll remain in place.”
Blair made clear the government also believes part of the reason Canada has seen such a “low incidence of positive tests” in the random testing is that the negative PCR test requirement was there in the first place.
American officials have previously indicated that they intended to accept vaccinations approved by the World Health Organization as valid, even if the vaccines in question — including the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been used in Canada — were not approved for use in the U.S.
Nearly four million Canadians — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — received mixed doses, and their ability to visit the U.S. would have been blocked if American officials had refused to recognize them.
Tonda MacCharles is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @tondamaccEdward Keenan is the Star’s Washington Bureau chief. He covers U.S. politics and current affairs. Reach him via email: [email protected]
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