Over the last week, Canada has ramped up its COVID-19 vaccine rollout, administering more than 100,000 doses per day.
This is a great start but more needs to be done if the federal government wants to achieve its goal of having most Canadians vaccinated by September, Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, said in an email to Global News.
“It’s not even remotely fast enough,” he said.
Canada has a population of about 37.7 million people, approximately 31.5 million of whom are over the age of 16 and eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.
As of Sunday evening, the country had administered 3,973,117 shots, after a daily record of 132,517 doses were injected that day.
This number has been steadily increasing but at a rate of 100,000 vaccinations per day, assuming each vaccination was a person’s first dose, it would take Canada around 10 months to achieve herd immunity levels, Furness said.
Based on those numbers, if the federal government expects to achieve its vaccine targets by September, Furness said it would need to administer around 400,000 shots per day — a number he described as “achievable.”
“At some point, we’ll start involving primary care physicians and pharmacies on a scale that will allow for a lot faster inoculation, which is what should have been done in the first place,” he added.
There are also other variables at play.
For every single person in Canada to be administered both their first and second shots of the vaccine, the federal government would need 75.4 million doses.
However, not everybody wants one, nor is everybody eligible. Ipsos polling released March 11 found 79 per cent of respondents said they would take the vaccine.
If just 79 per cent of Canadians wanted the COVID-19 vaccine, Timothy Chan, Canada Research Chair in Novel Optimization and Analytics in Health, said the number of doses needed per day for people aged 16 and older would drop to roughly 280,000.
Chan said he can’t say with certainty whether Canada has the infrastructure to ramp up vaccines to that level, “but I don’t see why not.”
“We’d be limited by things like space, by things like people, by things like needles and other supplies. But assuming that we can get all of those, I think it is possible to do,” he said.
There are 95 designated COVID-19 vaccination clinics across the country. Many of these clinics have different capacities, usually based around each province and territory’s size and population.
In Quebec, for example, its 18 clinics are currently vaccinating just under 32,000 people per day. Meanwhile, British Columbia, which operates 16 vaccine clinics, has the capacity to administer shots to around 13,000 people per day.
Canada is expected to shift into high gear this week, with nearly 1.2 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine and 846,000 Moderna doses expected to arrive. The shipments mark the largest vaccine delivery for the federal government since the start of its immunization campaign in mid-December.
Maxwell Smith, a Western University bioethicist and assistant professor, told Global News many provinces will be ramping up capacity as more vaccines are supplied. Ontario, for example, has so far been able to vaccinate upwards of 60,000 people per day, but Smith said the province has a much higher capacity.
“We’ve peaked in the 60,000 or so vaccines administered per day recently, and yet we still have capacity to do over 100,000 a day. We’re not even close to meeting the capacity that we’re able to do in the province,” he said.
Similarly, Smith said Canada’s capacity to vaccinate a certain number of people per day will also expand.
“We don’t expect to be staying at 60,000 a day. We fully expect to be going up higher. But that’s really just dependent on getting the vaccine supply that would allow us to do that.”