Canada border remains closed, even to the vaccinated

a two-lane road and big snow-covered mountains
A scene from the Alaska Highway at at Canada’s Kluane National Park, Yukon. (Ron Clausen/Creative Commons)

Your RV or campervan may be all tuned up and ready to drive the Alaska Highway, but Canada’s borders remain closed to all but essential travel. And don’t bother flashing your vaccination card.

“I think we’re all going to wait patiently until such a time that the health situation allows us to loosen border restrictions internationally,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in mid-March. “That’ll be eventually. But not for today.”

Kelley Lee, a professor of public health at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, said it’s likely travel restrictions will remain through the summer. She said they protect Canadians from exposure to the higher infection rate in the United States.  

“I don’t need to tell you that you (in the U.S.) have had far more cases. You’ve had something like 31 million infections,” said Kelley, Canada’s research chair of global health governance. “We’ve had less than a million.”

Even when adjusted for population size, Canada has had far fewer cases. The two countries also differ in vaccination rates. The U.S. has vaccinated a greater share of its population, while Canada has had trouble acquiring sufficient supply.

Lee said Canada can’t allow travel based on vaccination status because there’s still so much uncertainty about the vaccine’s impact on transmission. If you’re vaccinated, you’ve lowered your risk of becoming sick or dying, she said, but it’s not clear that you can’t transmit the disease.

”It’s not really possible for the government to just assume that people who have been vaccinated don’t pose a risk to other people,” Lee said.

Canada considers travel for work or school to be essential. Alaskans in the Lower 48 have also been allowed to transit Canada if they can show they’re driving north to go home. Alaskans on essential travel in Canada don’t have to quarantine, but they do have to limit their interactions and drive the most direct route.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at