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Residents 18 years of age and older who live in COVID-19 'hot spots' line at a vaccination clinic run by Humber River Hospital's mobile team at Downsview Arena in Toronto on April 21, 2021.

CHRIS HELGREN/Reuters

In New Jersey, the government is getting so frustrated with the level of resistance to taking the COVID-19 vaccine that it is now offering a free beer for anyone who gets one.

In Seattle, the Mariners baseball team is offering in-game vaccinations. Take someone out to the ball game, get them some peanuts and Cracker Jacks – and a needle during the seventh-inning stretch.

Krispy Kreme is even doling out free glazed doughnuts in exchange.

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Am I eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine? The latest rules by province

AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson: Which COVID-19 vaccine will I get in Canada?

So many Americans are declining the vaccine that all kinds of inducements are being offered. The vaccine abstainers are mainly populist-styled Republicans: More than 40 per cent of Grand Old Party members have said in polls they won’t take the vaccine. It’s further evidence, if further evidence is needed, of the crackpot turn the party has taken.

In Canada, things are much different. In a March Angus Reid poll, only 12 per cent said they wouldn’t get the vaccine. Canadians have dutifully lined up to get protection from the contagion. They don’t have to be coaxed with cakes and ale.

The contrast befits the stereotypical tale of the two countries: Americans are instinctively turbulent, Canadians reflexively more submissive. It’s been that way ever since the United Empire Loyalists – those dullards who refused to partake in the revolution against British rule – trudged north.

But the differences have become more pronounced. Given the radicalization of the Republican Party and the enormous debilitating power its populist wing possesses, the American condition has markedly changed.

Take any affliction in the United States – be it racism, guns, illegal immigration, climate change, the culture war, the disinformation epidemic – and consider to what degree far-right populism is at the heart of it.

The Canadian political system has not had occasion to be so infested by retrograde elements – though it has come close.

Many of those unwilling to take the jab are the same people who believe Donald Trump won the election and who cotton to any number of wacko conspiracy theories, including the one about Hillary Clinton running a sex-slave ring out of a Washington pizza parlour. The country’s handling of the pandemic last year when this cohort was in control was shameful.

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With their national surplus, Americans are being vaccinated much more quickly than are Canadians, whose federal and provincial governments have been demonstrably weak in many aspects of pandemic containment. Infection rates south of the border have recently been lower than those in Canada. But as the daily vaccination rates slip, experts now believe that the U.S. is not likely to reach herd immunity, which it could have done by this summer. This degree of vaccine resistance could also put the U.S. in a more precarious circumstance, with a large swath of its population remaining vulnerable.

Americans have done much worse than Canada in the most important barometer: deaths from COVID-19. They have had more than twice as many deaths per capita.

Fortunately, the response to the pandemic has also not been politicized in Canada to the degree witnessed in the appallingly polarized United States. The Trump administration took a lax attitude toward mask mandates and lockdowns; the Democrats, the opposite. The fight continues to this day, with conservatives citing statistics they claim show there was no need for draconian lockdown measures to limit virus penetration.

They say states with the most stringent restrictions, mainly Democratic ones, have had twice the unemployment rate compared with states with few restrictions, and that Worldometer statistics show that mortality rates in the latter are essentially no different than in the jurisdictions that imposed heavy constraints.

Several states are currently removing restrictions and freeing up their economies while Canadian provinces remain under heavy clampdowns. There is some griping over this and government miscalculations but, in keeping with deferential attitudes to authority, it has been limited.

In the U.S., old-guard conservatives such as Mitt Romney are not resistant to the vaccine. It’s odd that the Trump brand has aligned against it, given that the former president was the one who launched the successful Operation Warp Speed for vaccine delivery. But as Republican communications guru Frank Luntz points out, Mr. Trump has not bothered to promote the use of it. Instead, he seeds a lack of trust in science, in public health, in the media and in government.

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In more compliant and pragmatic Canada, there is much less of this. While the sensible Joe Biden will improve the climate, it will not be until the Republican Party is deradicalized – a remote prospect indeed – that the U.S. will see equilibrium restored.

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