Canada has ordered the world’s largest number of coronavirus vaccine doses per capita – among which only two candidates have been approved so far.
However, when it comes to the percentage of the population that has been vaccinated, Canada is lagging behind at least a dozen other countries.
As of Tuesday, more than 606,426 Canadians — that is almost 1.6 per cent of the population — had received at least one dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine. At least 37,189 Canadians were fully vaccinated with two required doses of Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines.
In comparison, Israel, which has the world’s highest vaccination rate, 2.7 million people — 25 per cent of the population — had been vaccinated (as of Jan. 19) with at least one shot, according to numbers from Our World In Data, a University of Oxford-based organization.
In second place is United Arab Emirates (UAE), with 20.88 vaccine doses administered per 100 people (as of Jan. 19), followed by Gulf neighbour Bahrain with 8.39 (as of Jan.18), the United Kingdom (6.96) and the United States with 3.71 (as of Jan. 15).
Canada’s performance has been on par with some other European countries. It is currently ahead of Germany, Russia and France.
Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the University of Toronto, said Canada’s vaccine rollout so far has been “poor”, with problems in both supply and distribution.
Jean-Paul Soucy, an infectious disease epidemiologist and PhD student at the University of Toronto, told Global News that Canada does not have the same “urgency” as countries like Israel and the U.S.
Canada, along with other nations, has stumbled upon a supply glitch after Pfizer-BioNTech announced last week that it would be temporarily reducing the number of vaccines shipped in order to upgrade one of its facilities in Europe.
Because of the delivery delays, Canada will not receive any Pfizer vaccine doses during the week of Jan. 25.
When asked about reports that the Pfizer vaccine has less of a delay in some European countries than Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “I think a lot of people are comparing stories from country to country and trying to figure out how we can all move quicker”.
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Trudeau said the reports that Canada is going to be hit with more delays than Europe is “speculation.”
“I understood that there are many different musings and reports and speculation and stories about ‘this country doing this’ and ‘that country doing that’,” Trudeau said.
“I had a lovely conversation with (German Chancellor) Angela Merkel yesterday morning, in which she sort of complained to me that every day she gets it from the German media that they are not doing as well as Canada is.”
Deals and distribution
So far, Canada has approved two vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. According to the deals signed, the federal government has secured 76 million doses from Pfizer and up to 56 million from Moderna.
In total, Canada has invested more than $1 billion to have access to up to 414 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from seven different manufacturers.
As of Jan. 14, a total 765,100 doses of both vaccines had been distributed across the country.
The U.S., meanwhile, which has a population roughly eight times that of Canada’s, had distributed more than 31 million doses by Jan. 15, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Operation Warp Speed, which is a collaboration of the Department of Health and the Department of Defense (DoD), was launched in May to aid with the production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. The U.S. Congress has directed almost $10 billion to this effort.
Since last week, the U.S. has expanded its campaign, opening football stadiums, major league ballparks, fairgrounds and convention centres to inoculate a larger and more diverse pool of people. Many states are ramping up the pace of vaccinations, in some cases offering them 24-7.
Similarly, in the U.K., where a new, more contagious variant of the virus is raging out of control and deaths are soaring, seven new large-scale vaccination sites opened last week at places such as the big Excel convention centre in London, a race course in Surrey and a tennis and soccer complex in Manchester.
In Israel, teams have repacked Pfizer’s large ultra-frozen pallets into insulated boxes the size of small pizzas, allowing doses to be delivered in smaller numbers and at more remote sites.
Some 150 vaccine clinics have been set across the country, as well as sports arenas and conference centres to act as “super sites” for inoculations. Haifa, a coastal city in Israel, even set up a drive-in vaccination site, where citizens can roll up in their vehicles and receive a vaccine without taking off their seatbelts.
In contrast, Canada’s largest province of Ontario has only 19 vaccination clinics at different hospitals and health centres. So far, Manitoba is the only province to set up a “super site” for vaccines.
Israeli officials said on Monday they are giving weekly data updates on its COVID-19 outbreak to Pfizer under a collaboration agreement that may help other countries fine-tune their inoculation campaigns and achieve “herd immunity”.
Soucy said it was important for Canada to put in place large-scale infrastructure to get the doses into people’s arms as quickly as they are received, so vaccines are not “sitting in freezers” for any more than a couple of days.
— with files from Global News’ Katie Dangerfield, Reuters and the Associated Press