Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday March 5, 2021
Pandemic Partisan Pile-ons
Only three months ago, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rose in the House of Commons and said that, when it came to vaccinations for COVID-19, Canada was in a superior position compared with its global peers.
The government’s planning, he said, “resulted in us having the best portfolio of vaccines of any country in the world, with more doses per capita than any other country.”
But as of this week, Canada ranked behind more than 30 countries
in vaccination rates. Its number of inoculated citizens stalled in February, hovering at about 5 per cent – while peer countries such as Britain and the United States, as well as poorer countries such as Chile and Morocco, have accelerated their rollout.
The government has assured Canadians the faltering start is now in the rearview mirror and a rapid increase in vaccine deliveries will see the country closing the gap.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau said he was optimistic that Canada will be able to surpass his stated September deadline for getting shots to everyone. That end-of-summer deadline is in line with one set by Germany but behind Britain and the U.S.
How did the government go from proclaiming its performance was “the best” to fending off accusations that it had failed its citizens?
A Globe and Mail analysis has shown the Trudeau government’s lofty promises were never consistent with several hard realities: a severe lack of manufacturing capacity in a world obliged to vaccinate their own citizens first, as well as contracts with vaccine suppliers that appear to contain less-advantageous delivery schedules than those inked by Britain and the U.S.
What’s more, rather than prepare Canadians for an inevitable lag at the start of the vaccination schedule, the government relied on soaring rhetoric. It told Canadians it had hedged its bets and assured success by signing contracts with multiple international pharmaceutical giants. And although it’s certainly true that Ottawa placed wise bets on the vaccines first out of the clinical-trial gate – those developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca – it didn’t properly explain to citizens that the global inoculation race had two distinct phases: first to purchase the vaccines and then to secure them.
“Canada, for some reason, was very quick to make purchases and really slow to invest in the manufacturing piece. I don’t know what went into those decisions,” said Andrea Taylor, a researcher with Duke University’s Global Health Innovation Centre, which has been tracking vaccine procurements around the world.
“They may have had more faith in the global supply chain than other countries.” (Globe & Mail)
Meanwhile, Shipments are ramping up, more COVID-19 vaccines are getting approved, and expert advice to stretch the gap between doses means millions of Canadians could get the protection of a first dose sooner than expected.
Taken together, those changes represent a significant shift from the delays and consternation that marked Canada’s national vaccine campaign in recent weeks.
But they have also left Ontario scrambling to keep up with the pace.
Facing criticism over failing to prepare for the long-foreseen surge of doses that Ottawa ordered from overseas, Premier Doug Ford’s government is now set to table an updated vaccination schedule on Friday.
The plan comes after a week that saw existing timelines — which were widely criticized as too vague and too slow — suddenly in flux. (Toronto Star)