A population-wide COVID-19 vaccination effort will inherently attract a high volume of media and public scrutiny. Inevitably jurisdictional comparisons will evolve into a major component of the public debate around inoculations across countries, provinces, and municipalities.
Last month The Washington Past reported that, for most of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada has performed ahead of the United States. With more effective coordination and stronger directions for social distancing, the north side of the border presented less than a third as many cases and less than half as many deaths per capita.
Vaccinations provide a different narrative. By mid-March 2021, the Biden administration observed four times as many doses per capita, with the Canadian government struggling to secure vaccines from manufacturers who do not produce domestically.
A CBC report called Canada’s initial rollout as “sluggish.” As many nations like Israel and the United Kingdom initiated mass campaigns in early 2021, Canada’s vaccination rates have dropped in comparison to jurisdictions around the globe.
Critics blame the Canadian performance on a slow procurement process, the absence of domestic manufacturers, and the inability of individual provinces to sign their own agreements. This structure has inherently initiated a high volume of blame consistently directed at Ottawa.
Locally, the provincial government has been increasingly criticized for not providing fair allocations. At a March 26, 2021 press briefing. Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang indicated that distribution of vaccines is clearly not equitable for Waterloo Region residents.
Vaccine distribution is based on a per capita delivery model, however in late March with 2.3 million doses administered provincially, Waterloo Region should have, based on 3.8 percent of Ontario’s total population, received 89,000 vaccines. The actual local administration is approximately 66,000 doses.
The equity issue reached the floor of the Ontario Legislature when Waterloo MPP Catherine Fife advanced the perceived unfairness to the attention of Health Minister Christine Elliott. The blunt answer is the province cannot supply products to the health units if they do not receive deliveries from the federal government.
Canadian vaccinations will not outpace new strains of COVID-19. Canadian manufacturing may be a future possibility but cannot provide immediate solutions. Social distancing and other risk reducing measures are now and will be urgently required for all Canadians.
Written by Art Sinclair