Much of the world way ahead of Canada’s vaccination rate
On January 28, Canada had vaccinated 2.4 residents per 100 people, ranking us 21st in the world in doses administered per capita.
Almost three weeks later, we have 3.5 people out of every 100 residents vaccinated, a rate which has seen Canada plummet to the 51st spot on the University of Oxford’s global COVID-19 dashboard which is providing constantly updated data on vaccination levels around the world.
By comparison, on January 28, Israel had vaccinated 50.2 residents per every 100 people, the highest inoculation rate in the world at the time, the U.K. was at 11.7, 4th on the list, and the U.S. was at 7.5 vaccinations per 100 residents, which was the sixth highest rate in the world almost three weeks ago.
As of February 17, Israel sat at 78.1 vaccinations per 100 people, the U.K. was at 23.8 and the U.S. had administered vaccinations to 16.5 out of every 100 residents. This means Canada only added just over one more person to its inoculation list out of every 100 residents over an almost three-week period, while Israel vaccinated an additional 28 people out of every 100 residents. That is 28 times the rate of vaccination over the same period compared to Canada.
It means our population and the health care system across Canada is at much greater risk due to the failure to get vaccinations into the bodies of Canadians.
Delays in vaccinating Canadians means the country's medical system will continue to face pressure from COVID-19.
Canadian officials have faced increased criticism for the failure to secure a consistent and adequate supply of vaccines, while a disjointed roll-out plan, administered by each province, has been poorly managed.
The inability to produce vaccines in Canada has been one of the key factors cited by experts who have examined why the country’s inoculation rate is falling behind so rapidly. The federal government was boasting last year of securing more doses of vaccine per capita than almost any other country in the world. But getting deals done on paper with suppliers has proven to be completely different from actually having doses in hand.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stuck to his key talking point throughout the vaccine roll out, even as efforts have stalled: Every Canadian, he says, who wants one, will get a vaccine by the fall.
The federal government reported it had secured nearly 400 million individual doses from seven different manufacturers. But Health Canada has only approved the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for use.
Both manufacturers had to curtail shipments to Canada due to internal supply delays and because of slowed European approvals needed to export vaccines.
Ottawa has announced it plans to be able to manufacture vaccines in the country by the fall, in partnership with the private sector and post-secondary institutions, but some of this production capacity might not come online for more than a year.
After the Second World War, Canada became a leader in public vaccine production, led by the federal government. But experts have pointed out that as increased privatization of vaccine production swept across the world, we did not have the same level of investment as the U.S., certain European countries and countries such as China and India.
Ottawa did not even bother looking to the U.S. for vaccines because former president Donald Trump made clear that exports would not be allowed.
"The turbulence week after week that we're seeing is of concern and we're watching it closely and we're staying on it," Trudeau said two weeks ago, at a press conference, as Canada began falling way behind the vaccination rates seen in other countries. "But let me reassure people we are still very much on track as promised to get those six million doses by the end of March, because that's what the vaccine CEO's keep telling me, and I'm happy to reassure Canadians on that."
For Canada, vaccines may be plentiful by spring but months late to help the vulnerable who are still sheltering and fearful of new virus variants.
"The bottom line is that every single delay is lives lost, and that's the tragedy of it all," Jillian Kohler, a professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto and an adviser with the World Health Organization, told the media. She has been a critic of Canada’s approach to procuring vaccines on the global market.
"This is not something where we can just sit back and say, 'oh we didn't think this through' or 'we didn't know that manufacturing of vaccines is complex and delays do happen,' but the reality is when we slow down (on vaccines) we have lives that are lost needlessly and that is unacceptable."
The worrying vaccine delays are happening while emerging strains of the novel coronavirus continue to spread across Peel and other parts of Ontario, where the U.K. variant that transmits much faster is expected to be the dominant strain by the mid-point of spring, according to recent modeling.
Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel's medical officer of health, has made it clear he and his team are closely monitoring the presence of new COVID variants in the region. Last week, Loh urged the province to ease off some of its reopening measures to allow public health officials to get a clear handle on how the reopening of schools this week would impact community spread of the virus. He said with new variants now spreading in Peel, "we must move cautiously." His advice was ignored by the Province.
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