The wait for vaccines has been compared to “The Hunger Games”; now Canada has overtaken the United States

The wait for vaccines has been compared to “The Hunger Games”; now Canada has overtaken the United States

TORONTO – In the spring, some compared the photos of Covid-19 to the competition in “The Hunger Games”.

Just a few months ago, Canada’s vaccination campaign was in the doldrums, but the country’s efforts have rebounded recently, with about 56% of the eligible population fully vaccinated this week, according to statistics compiled by Our World in Data. This compares to almost 49% in the United States

So how did Canada do it?

Experts said a number of factors are behind Canada’s success.

“In general, the feeling of February [and] In March, Canada had not done a very good job securing vaccines, ”said Dr. Joel Lexchin, associate professor of family and community medicine at the University of Toronto.

Lexchin said that due to a lack of domestic suppliers, Canada had been forced to rely on other countries to provide vaccines and that for months “the delivery schedule was not at all clear, so people were very concerned about it. the amount of vaccine that would arrive in Canada. and how fast. “

Catherine Serrano administers the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine to a resident of Caboto Terrace, an independent seniors’ residence in Toronto, on March 11.Carlos Osorio / Reuters file

Even in early May, the situation was so grim that Laura Leach, a dual US and Canadian citizen living in Toronto, said she considered crossing the border to New York state just to get the shot.

“When the pandemic started, when the United States was in really bad shape, I was really grateful to be in Canada,” said Leach, 30. But as she watched her family members in the United States receive their first doses this year, with no indication of when she might receive hers, she grew increasingly frustrated.

“I was actually considering going to the United States just to get the vaccine because it was taking so long here,” she said.

After delays from manufacturers led to shortages, the situation in Canada began to improve as doses of the AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were introduced in the country.

The government’s decision to diversify contracts with suppliers and sign deals with seven vaccine manufacturers for more than 400 million doses has turned out to be the right move, Lexchin said, although many are still awaiting clearance from the government. government.

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This is considerably more than needed for this country of about 38 million people, and the government has pledged to donate some of the spare doses to other countries in need.

“We spread our bets, much like the stock market – you invest in multiple companies, because if some don’t do well you assume others will, then we’ve made some of the right choices in terms of which vaccines would work.” , did he declare.

Dr. Jesse Papenburg, an infectious disease specialist at the McGill University Health Center in Montreal, said “it would have been good to have a national supply” of Covid-19 vaccines.

But he insisted it should always be “a point of pride in Canada that we have a successful vaccination campaign, even if we started a little slow.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Vice President Joe Biden during a meeting in Trudeau’s office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on December 9, 2016. Canada has overtaken the United States by fully vaccinating about the half of its eligible population.Chris Wattie / Reuters file

Lexchin and Papenburg agreed that vaccine reluctance was relatively low among Canadians – which they said contributed to the rollout and attributed to the lack of politicization surrounding injections.

In an online survey of Canadian adults from July 9 to 13 by the Angus Reid Institute, 8% of 2,040 respondents said they would not be vaccinated against Covid-19, while 3% did said they weren’t sure. In total, 77% said they had already received at least one Covid-19 vaccine, while 12% said they planned to be vaccinated at some point.

South of the border, President Joe Biden made vaccination a centerpiece of the early days of his administration, but a significant part of the Republican Party and the conservative media apparatus retreated, with some decrying it as an excessive authority on the part of the government. government.

An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll conducted between July 15 and 19 found that 35% of those surveyed in the United States who did not receive the first doses said they would not receive them. probably not, while 45% said they definitely would not.

Only 3% said they would definitely get the photos, while 16% said they probably would.

“I think the key element is that there has been less politicization of the vaccine rollout, and it has certainly worked to our advantage over the United States,” said Papenburg, who is on the National Advisory Committee. on Canada’s Immunization.

Lexchin agreed. Leadership in Canada at the federal and provincial levels was largely unified in supporting the immunization program and urging residents to get immunized, he said.

Although there have been questions about the roll-out of the immunization program, for the most part, politicians have not suggested “that vaccines are not a good idea” or discouraged people from obtaining them, “unlike them. at some of the yahoos in the United States. States, ”he said.

His point of view was echoed by Dr Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the White House, who said last Monday on CNN that Canada is doing better not because “we try less than they”.

“It’s because in Canada you don’t have this division of people who don’t want to get vaccinated, in many ways based on ideology and political persuasion,” he said. he declares.

However, Lexchin and Papenburg acknowledged that there were hurdles to overcome in Canada, including misinformation.

A report released by Statistics Canada in early February found that 96% of Canadians who used the Internet to find information about the pandemic had been exposed to material they suspected to be “misleading, false or inaccurate.”

A separate study conducted by McGill University and published in late March found that much of the disinformation consumed by Canadians came from American sources. Researchers called Americans “super-disseminators of Covid-19 disinformation.”

Leach said she wasn’t surprised. The rollout of the vaccine in the United States “has become so political, when it just wasn’t the case here in Canada,” she said.

“There are people in my home country who are not vaccinated, who do not want to be vaccinated and who do not want other people to be vaccinated and do not even believe that the pandemic is happening”, a- she declared. “It’s really scary.”