Skip to main content

Later this week, Canada is going to pass the United States on the vaccination league tables. The share of Canadians who have received their first shot will, for the first time, exceed the share of Americans.

The cross-border vaccine gap, once enormous, has been narrowing for weeks. On May 7, just 37 per cent of Canadians had at least one shot, compared with 45 per cent in the U.S. – an eight-percentage-point difference. Ten days later, with Canada’s campaign having picked up speed, the tally of Canadians with at least one jab has risen to 45.7 per cent. The U.S. has climbed to only 47.3 per cent.

By the middle of this week, Canada will be ahead of the U.S. Our lead will thereafter widen.

This is a big deal. It’s not the end of the race, but it is a sign of how far down the track we are, and how fast we’re moving.

None of this would be happening if Canadians weren’t stepping forward and eagerly offering up their arms. This is your doing.

The U.S. is proof that simply having a lot of shots isn’t enough. The Americans do not lack for vaccine supply; they’re practically drowning in the stuff. But in much of the country, there’s a serious and growing shortage of willing people.

In Canada, it has so far been an entirely different story. Vaccines remain in extremely high demand, which is why Canada has quickly closed the vaccination gap, despite our southern neighbour’s large and early supply advantage.

Canada will hit a vaccine-hesitancy wall eventually, though the signs are that, in most of the country, it will happen later – hopefully far later – than in the U.S.

For example, the City of Toronto reported that, as of Monday morning, 60.1 per cent of adults – about half the city’s population – had received at least their first shot. Toronto is asking for more vaccines to be allocated by the province, because many neighbourhoods remain infection hot spots that ought to be given priority – and because, as of Monday, 97 per cent of available vaccine appointments at city-run clinics were already booked for this week, next week and the week after.

That’s not ideal, given that hot-spot postal codes in Toronto, Peel Region and other areas of the province should be getting a continuing oversupply of vaccines. Send the fire trucks to where the fire is.

But don’t lose sight of that cloud’s big silver lining: Even though deliveries to Canada increased this month and are still ramping up – a record 4.5 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna are expected this week – Canada’s growing supply continues to be outstripped by Canadians’ demand.

Despite a vaccine rollout that has had false starts and setbacks, most of our fellow citizens have not been deterred. They see vaccination for what it is: the route back to normal life, for each of us individually and all of us collectively.

The most vaccine-enthusiastic parts of the U.S. look a lot like Canada. In Vermont, the state with the highest vaccine uptake, 65 per cent of residents have received at least one shot. That’s slightly higher than the level in Yukon, which is Canada’s vaccine leader, thanks to Ottawa having given a large and early allocation to the territories.

But in Mississippi, just 32 per cent of people have received their first shot. That figure has barely budged for weeks, despite lots of shots being available. It’s a similar story across much of the U.S. South and West.

As a result, despite the U.S. having a big lead in vaccine supply, a higher percentage of people have received their first shot in Manitoba than in neighbouring North Dakota. Saskatchewan’s level of first-shot vaccination has passed Montana, and Alberta is on the verge of doing so.

British Columbia is behind Oregon – one of the U.S. states with relatively high vaccine uptake – but catching up fast. Ontario, once far back of Michigan, has drawn even and is about to pull ahead.

No one should get complacent, because there’s still a lot left to be done – on vaccinations, public-health measures and a host of other issues – before COVID-19 is beaten. There’s hard work ahead, and we’ll have more to say later this week on the many smart steps that need to be taken to get Canada to the finish line.

But this country is, suddenly, a lot closer to the end of the pandemic than to the beginning.

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

Follow topics related to this article:

Check Following for new articles

Interact with The Globe