(WIVB) — The U.S. border with Canada is now closed for another month, but efforts are growing to open the door, at least for medical reasons.
Congressman Brian Higgins wants to allow Canadians to get vaccinated on the U.S. side and he’s getting bipartisan support.
At the core of Higgins’ plan is re-interpreting the term “essential traveler” which would allow more folks to cross the border.
Today, Democrat Higgins’ cause was embraced in the Erie County Legislature by Conservative Party Minority Leader Joe Lorigo.
The goal, on both sides of the border with Canada is boosting vaccinations toward “herd immunity.” Buffalo Congressman Brian Higgins has called on President Biden and Governor Cuomo to loosen up border restrictions.
Senator Chuck Schumer is calling on Canadian authorities to do the same.
“Now that we have vaccinations the whole regime ought to change, and change quickly,” Schumer said.
But Canada’s leadership is being more deliberative about opening the border.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “we are not there yet, we are still very much in a third wave. We still need to get more and more people vaccinated across this country and get those numbers down.”
Erie County Legislator Joseph Lorigo supports Higgins’ plan to allow more Canadians to cross the border for medical purposes, an exception the Canadian government already allows.
“To allow for coming over for the vaccine, would Erie County be able to accommodate Canadians for vaccine doses?,” Lorigo said.
Lorigo put that question to Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein, in a virtual committee hearing and she believes the county has an ample supply.
“In the big picture, this is a global epidemic, and if we don’t eliminate Covid-19 globally especially on our continent, we are going to deal with it forever,” Burstein said.
Canadian authorities now say their vaccination rate is nearly on par with the United States at about 46%, but that is for first doses.
Canada still lags far behind for full vaccinations, which is less than 4% compared to nearly 40% in the U.S.
Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here.