Canada seeks more COVID vaccines as more than 37K go to waste in Michigan

Posted at 7:03 PM, Jun 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-03 19:03:56-04

One of America’s busiest border crossings, the tunnel underneath the Detroit River has been closed to non essential travel for more than a year. Separating American vaccines on one side and Canadians like Louis Sleiman on the other.


“I got my first dose no problem," Sleiman said.

Sleiman lives near Windsor and got his first vaccine dose weeks ago, however his second is still months away.

“I did get my first dose, looking to get my next one in August,” Sleiman said.

With fewer vaccines, Canada is way behind the United States in second doses. While 41% percent of Americans are now fully vaccinated, Canada’s vaccination rate is less than 5%.

“It is frustrating, and I think a lot of Canadians feel that way,” Sleiman said.

As Canadians struggle to find enough vaccine, thousands of vaccines in Michigan are going unused.

Since December 2020, more than 37,000 doses have been wasted in Michigan, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Dropped vials and dropped syringes are also included in the number along with doses that were prepared and never used.

Roughly 33,000 of those doses were wasted between April 26 and May 25.

The MDHHS said in a statement that "Michigan has vaccinated Canadian healthcare workers who work in Michigan to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, however, it is against CDC policy for us to ship or give unused vaccine to Canada."

“We’re now getting calls from pharmacists in Michigan who live in Windsor saying ‘guys we are throwing doses in the garbage. We can’t give them out, people aren’t willing to take them,’” said Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens.

Dilkens desperately wants those doses destined for the trash. He says plans to have them shipped to Canada have so far failed, so he got approval from the Tunnel Corporation to shut down the Detroit Windsor tunnel, draw a line in paint at the border, and have American pharmacists come vaccinate Canadians.

"Canadians know exactly where the line is and their 2 feet can stay in Canada, and the Americans can make sure their 2 feet are in the United States so that we've never crossed into either Country," Dilkens said. "No one needs to quarantine, no one is stepping over the boundary line, but you know what? Somewhere in the middle, an arm and a syringe will meet.”

His office started an online wait list for these border vaccines, which now has over 8,000 names. He says he is working with Metro Detroit pharmacies to lock in the doses and even has a back up plan if the tunnel plan falls through.

“If I get stopped in the tunnel by someone, guess what, we have an international waterway and there’s no customs out on the waterway," Dilkens said. "We’ll get the boats out there and the US pharmacists with the syringes coming from a boat on the US side and we’ll link people up in the middle."

Source: Government of Canada

“It’s unorthodox, but it works,” Sleiman said. “I’d go in 15 minutes.”

Sleiman says he's all in on Mayor Dilkens' plan, long as Michigan’s extra doses start making their way to Canada instead of the trash.

"It's discouraging that this isn’t happening right away,” Sleiman said. "Especially in our area and being so close to Detroit, this should be happening today.”

There’s no set date on when a tunnel closure would happen. Mayor Dilkens says he still hopes it doesn't come to that, but he’s preparing to do whatever it takes.