Help me out here. When it comes to the timely delivery of COVID-19 vaccine into the arms of Canadians, is this country in good shape or not?
According to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, we are. He has repeatedly said that by the end of September all Canadians who want the vaccine will have it. And just a few days ago, he boldly declared, “Our plan is working”. Is it?
And if I may ask, what plan? Vaccinations for all Canadians by September is a goal, it is not a plan. And the likelihood of that goal being achievable is becoming more in doubt as each day passes. Compared to many other countries in the world, on a per capita basis, our progress in delivering vaccines to Canadians is abysmal. So, where is the plan?
The simple fact is that the novel coronavirus has not gone away. It has been controlled to some degree by the provinces, but there is no cure out there and until vaccines are available to the vast majority of Canadians, measures that seriously and negatively affect our personal lives, our national economy, and our mental health will continue to remain in place to one degree or another. It is much easier to blame the provinces for this, but the hard truth is that the federal government is failing in the timely delivery of vaccines.
Last week, every major newspaper in Canada, left and right in editorial inclination, criticized the Trudeau Government for its rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, an expression of agreement as rare as an eclipse. The Globe and Mail said this: “The country’s early vaccination rollout is collapsing.” It is.
According to a Toronto Star editorial, out of 32 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Canada ranks a dismal 24th in vaccine doses administered per capita. Behind countries like Poland, Romania, Estonia and Turkey. To quote the Toronto Star, “That’s a terrible performance.”
The Toronto Star also points out that to date, Israel (with no production capacity) has vaccinated 60.4 per cent of its population with at least one dose, Britain 15.5 per cent, The United States 10.2 per cent, and Canada just 2.63 per cent. Britain has vaccinated 90 per cent of its population over the age of 75. With the exception of long-term care homes, we haven’t even started.
At this point in the pandemic, Canada has the lowest vaccination rates, the biggest deficit, and among the highest jobless rates in the G7. How in heaven’s name has this happened?
To start with, I am not sure how well Prime Minister Justin Trudeau understood the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic in the first place. Remember more than a year ago when countries world-wide were becoming acutely aware of the reality of a pandemic, the prime minister continued to roam around Africa in a failed attempt to gain a seat on the United Nations Security Council?
When the pandemic did have his attention, he “fixed” the vaccine problem for Canada by putting most, if not all, his eggs in one basket by striking a deal with a Chinese pharmaceutical company for what appeared to be a promising vaccine. That was at a time when China was (and still is) holding two Canadian citizens hostage in retaliation for Canada detaining senior Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, pending an extradition request from the United States.
Clearly the relations between Canada and China were strained then, and one would think that the Trudeau Government should have thought of that. It was poor judgement that they didn’t, and it should have come as no surprise when the Chinese Government put the blocks to the deal.
The sad consequence of that is when it became necessary to negotiate alternative large vaccine purchases with other major vaccine producers, such as Pfizer and Moderna, Canada was near the back of the line. Moreover, some of these arrangements were verbal and nowhere did they include guarantees of delivery times.
Subsequently, this has proven to be a very serious problem with major delays and a resulting inability to get vaccines into people’s arms. It will now be weeks or months before Canada has a steady flow of vaccines.
To add insult to injury, last week the prime minister announced Canada would receive 20 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine by June. Good news, except not accurate. Government officials have since indicated that Justin Trudeau “misspoke” and that the doses would be closer to 1.9 million and that there is no assurance of delivery or timelines until the vaccine is approved.
I am not sure of the context in which the word “misspoke” was used, but to me it must either mean that the prime minister was misleading us, or he had no idea what he was talking about. Either scenario is chilling!
The Trudeau Government is also arguing that the lack of a production facility in Canada is a large part of our inability to have an early and effective roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines. That may be true, but under the same circumstances, Israel has managed it, New Zealand has managed it, and so has Australia.
Unlike the United Kingdom, Canada has done nothing in the past year to increase their production capability. Instead, as an editorial in the Toronto Star says, they have made “a deal for next time”. This refers to an announcement by the prime minister that Canada has struck an agreement with the American pharmaceutical company, Novavax, to produce its COVID-19 vaccine in Canada. But they will not be in a position to even begin production here until at least the end of this year.
In the meantime, the Trudeau Government has turned down two Canadian proposals that could have produced more immediate results. PnuVax is a 30-year-old biopharmaceuticals company in Montreal that offered to manufacture millions of COVID-19 doses by the end of 2021 with “truckloads” out the door by Christmas. Sorry, no thanks.
Providence Therapeutics in Calgary has successfully blocked COVID-19 in mice. They have asked the federal government to begin human trials. The response? Again, no thanks.
Top all of that off with the Trudeau Government passing on an offer from Moderna for 16 million additional vaccines and instead becoming the only G7 country to take vaccine from a World Health Organization fund intended for developing countries, and you really have to ask yourselves if these guys in Ottawa really know what they are doing.
The headline on a recent article in The National Post by journalist Tristin Hopper states, “…Ottawa utterly botched Canada’s COVID vaccine acquisition”. I agree with that. To make it personal, we have family living in Great Britain and the United States. They have received at least one dose of vaccine. In Canada, most of us aren’t even close to being inoculated. We don’t know the plan. We don’t know the timeline, and we can’t trust what we are being told.
It’s nothing short of a national shame and there really is no excuse for that.
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