Vaccination rates: Canada trails
behind other countries, shamefully

di Priscilla Pajdo del 23 February 2021

TORONTO - Globally, vaccination campaigns are well underway against the Covid-19 virus. However, not all countries and jurisdictions fare equally when comparing the latest data in the mass inoculation program.

Governments around the world have adopted different strategies in the roll-out of vaccines. Canada was early in the game by procuring 84-million doses. They are expected to arrive by the end of September. However, the actual plan to vaccinate Canadians has left the country falling behind other leading nations.

According to Our World in Data, as of February 21, Canada has administered approximately 1.4 million Covid-19 vaccinations. Since data collected is counted as a “single dose”, this would translate to about 3.6% of the population having received at least one dose.

Depending on the specific dose regime recommended by manufactures, the rates do not reflect the actual number of people who have been fully vaccinated. Therefore, the percentage of the population who have completed the required doses is likely far lower: Pfizer and Moderna both require at least two shots.

The lack of shipments over the last month from both manufacturers have not helped Canada’s vaccination efforts. Frustratingly, the resulting vaccine drought has left Canada far behind other industrialized countries like Italy, the US and the UK.

Since inoculations began mid-December, roughly three out of 100 Canadians have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. A number far inferior when compared to just over five in Italy and seventeen in the USA. In the UK, the rate jumps to 25, nearly eight times that of Canada’s (graph).

Earlier in the pandemic, Canada faced criticism over its lack of domestic supply of PPEs and ventilators. Now the focus is the country’s lack of domestic vaccine production capacity. Critics argue that Canada is left at the mercy of foreign producers.

A Canadian company, Providence Therapeutics is currently in human trails for its coronavirus vaccine. The company’s CEO, Brad Sorenson reiterated in a committee meeting last week that, starting July, Providence Therapeutics will have capacity to produce 50 million vaccine doses in 2021.

“On a full year basis, we have the ability to produce up to 120 million doses”, he added. If approved by Health Canada, this addition could be a welcome boost to the vaccination campaign. But experts argue the lack of “locally-produced” vaccine supply is just one factor holding up the Nation’s progress.

Others cite different reasons associated with procurement troubles.

This would include a conflict of interest among outside members of a task force set up by the government to advise on the procurement process. It is alleged that six of the twelve members on that task force were known to have ties to companies potentially providing vaccines.

Dr. Joel Lexchin, a Toronto emergency physician and former York university professor of health policy echoes the call for a restructuring of the task force to “reduce the conflict of interest”. More transparency and less secrecy in the government’s decision-process can ensure more public trust.

Now, as Covid-19 vaccine deliveries are back on track in Canada, inoculation efforts can begin to ramp up. Barring any further disruptions in shipments, officials predict 14.5 million people will be fully vaccinated by the end of June.

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