While an army of federal and provincial government officials continue to assure us Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine roll-out is still nominally on track, doubts have been growing in many quarters across the nation that getting those needles into millions of waiting arms will not be coming anywhere close to meeting the timelines previously established.
In many ways, the stumbles that have come in fits and starts through our vaccine roll-out odyssey perhaps shouldn’t be all that surprising to Canadians. Early on, when the first whispers of potential vaccines receiving approval were working their way through the media wires and onto the front pages, we were treated to bright and hopeful pronouncements with optimistic timelines by a myriad of provincial governments hand-in-hand with those coming straight from the top in Ottawa. To say some of those cheery predictions have now proven to be overly optimistic would be an understatement. And while it probably should have been expected governments would attempt to make political hay out of the prospect of a vaccine roll-out presented to us in the midst of a lockdown, not being able to deliver effectively on those promises is leaving significant egg on those same faces in recent days and weeks, including that of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Unfortunately, for our hapless leadership — literally from coast-to-coast — seizing on what seemed like a political life preserver after confronting day after day of depressing news and statistics seemed like a no-brainer at the time. But when you can’t meet the deadlines you so diligently provided to us, citizens and voters start to ask questions. And when those questions don’t have ready answers from those who should be in the know, frustration and anger start to spread like a black tide.
On paper at least, Canada’s efforts to secure an adequate vaccine supply would lead one to believe the nation was trending toward millions of doses being available from multiple suppliers in a reasonable timeframe. By the end of January, Canada had ordered the world’s largest number of COVID-19 vaccine doses per capita.
But recent statistics show when it comes to actual vaccinations, supply and distribution problems have Canada lagging far behind other developed countries. According to the Financial Post earlier this month, the nation has now slipped to 38th place in the global race to vaccinate behind countries like Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia and Iceland, as well as the U.S. — who also has Canada firmly in the rearview mirror in 6th place. And despite more than $1 billion invested to access up to 414 million doses, at the end of last month just over three-quarters of a million doses had been distributed nation-wide.
So beyond supply chain issues and distribution problems, which are being encountered by nations across the globe, what else might account for Canada’s slow rollout? Some observers have placed the blame squarely at the foot of our federal government failing to adequately invest in a homegrown vaccine solution, and instead relying on foreign vaccine suppliers.
While signing contracts and forking over millions to secure vaccine doses are not insignificant acts, human nature tells us in the midst of a pandemic, foreign vaccine suppliers and nations will probably do what they can to fully vaccinate their own populations — while largely playing the delay game with regard to their contractual export obligations.
The failure of the federal government to anticipate that eventuality, while not ensuring a made-in-Canada vaccine would be a major part of the solution, is now coming home to roost for the federal government, and corona-weary Canadians left in the lurch may not be so willing to give the powers that be another “X” at the ballot box in any upcoming election.
This editorial was originally published in the Medicine Hat News.