A little angst over the slow rollout of vaccines in Canada is understandable. Vaccination seems like the way out of this interminable pandemic, so of course we’re anxious to roll up our sleeves for some protection.
But we need to keep our wits about us. We can’t abandon our principles in the name of expediency – nor can we let political partisanship blind us to some uncomfortable truths.
Canada’s vaccination campaign has certainly been nothing to write home about. The sloppy handling of the vaccination file has not represented the federal government in its finest hour.
Still, the howling premiers and the outraged opposition leaders need to ask themselves if they would have done any better under the circumstances.
It’s said that hindsight is always 20/20, but in politics – a profession where rhetorical prowess rules the day – it’s often more like 20/5. If these politicians are to be believed, being just out of the reach of real power apparently endows one with the visual acuity of an eagle and flawless decision-making powers.
Let’s not forget that many of the failings that have put Canada in our present-day pickle were years in the making. Where was the outrage about lack of domestic vaccine production capability prior to 2020?
Could anyone have reasonably predicted that the promising Canada-China vaccine collaboration would fall apart for geopolitical reasons, stemming from the RCMP’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou?
When Canada was signing a dizzying number of contracts to purchase vaccines last year – 398 million doses in total – were any of the astute opposition parties demanding that the contracts include clauses ensuring monthly instead of quarterly delivery metrics?
Can anyone who is demanding that Canada pay “whatever it takes” to secure quicker vaccine delivery say with a straight face that there would not be an outcry if it were to be later revealed that we paid a hefty premium for earlier access (the way Israel has done, for example)?
Do we have any doubt that those demanding that vaccine approvals be rushed would be the first to cry blue murder if something went wrong down the road?
Can those who are longing for the kinds of mass-vaccination campaigns underway in Britain and the United States find anything else good to say about those countries’ otherwise appalling handling of the pandemic?
Yes, it hurts to know that someone your age is getting vaccinated today in London or Topeka, Kan., while your turn won’t come until the summer in Toronto or Lethbridge. And Britain and the U.S. have invested massively and smartly in vaccination as few other countries have. But no matter how quickly they get shots into people’s arms, it won’t mitigate the hundreds of thousands of deaths they have suffered.
Canada’s overall pandemic performance has been mediocre – not horrible, not great – and we’re continuing that pattern with vaccination. If nothing else, we’re consistent.
On Friday, headlines announced that Canada would receive six million vaccine doses by the end of March. Those words were identical to what we’ve been told since November, 2020, when it was first announced that Canada would receive four million doses from Pfizer and two million doses from Moderna by the end of next month. That will increase to at least 26 million doses by the end of June and 70 million by the end of September. When other vaccines are approved, those numbers will increase.
As frustrating as the week-to-week fluctuations in deliveries are, nothing has really changed in the rollout plan. There is every indication that manufacturers will meet their contractual obligations.
It takes time to manufacture billions of vaccine doses, and there will be hiccups. Canadians, like most everyone else in the world, will have to wait for their shots. We’re not more deserving or needy.
One of the most disconcerting aspects of Canada’s vaccine plan has been the ill-considered decision to request 1.9 million doses from COVAX, an initiative designed to ensure that developing countries get access to coronavirus vaccines too.
While Canada has a legal right to ask for the doses, doing so at this point – when there is a shortage of supply worldwide – seems morally wrong. Canada has received almost 1.5 million vaccine doses – five times more than the entire continent of Africa. We should not be denying vaccinations to high-risk African grandmothers to mollify domestic political critics.
In retrospect, could we have done better? Of course. And woulda, coulda, shoulda makes for good political theatre.
But it won’t keep us any safer from COVID-19. Only sound public-health measures will, until vaccination is complete – and after that, too.
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