Back in December, before the COVID-19 variants changed the course of the pandemic, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau boasted that he had provided enough potential vaccines to protect a population four times the size of Canada. But four months later, not even two percent of Canada’s nearly 38 million people are fully vaccinated, and large parts of the country are going back into lockdown thanks to a brutal third wave.
Canada has logged nearly one million cases and 23,000 deaths since the onset of the pandemic. Trudeau had hoped to get the population vaccinated by June, but now says all Canadians who want a vaccine will get one by the end of September. Canada is one of the only major economies in the world that did not attempt to produce its own coronavirus vaccine.
Meanwhile, the variants take hold.
On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a strong warning that even fully vaccinated Americans should avoid traveling to Canada. And if they go for essential purposes, they should be tested three to five days after returning home. “This is not the news that any of us wanted, but hospital admissions are rising, ICU beds are filling up, variants are spreading, and even people who had convinced themselves that they did not need to worry are getting sick. “Trudeau said at a news conference on Tuesday. “Even though the sun is shining and the weather is getting warmer, COVID-1
More worrying, however, is that most of the new cases seen in the hospital’s intensive care units are still younger patients, according to Canada’s largest health expert. “While COVID-19 continues to affect people of all ages in Canada, infection rates are highest among those aged 20 to 39,” Theresa Tam, Canada’s head of public health, said in a statement on Wednesday. “We are also seeing an increased number of adults under the age of 60 being treated for COVID-19 in the hospital, also in intensive care units.”
So how can a country that had ordered more vaccines per. Inhabitant than anywhere else in the world, be in such trouble? Canada does not produce any vaccines in its territory – neither creates their own nor manufactures others – and the imported doses are simply not delivered. Canada’s government – owned vaccine manufacturer was privatized in the 1980s and eventually bought by the French company Sanofi, whose own vaccine efforts have been weakened.
Trudeau announced last week that Pfizer will finally begin delivering one million doses a week after the United States releases exports, now that it is clear that there is enough supply for the Americans first. AstraZeneca has also promised to deliver 20 million of its increasingly controversial vaccine, which should also help start the painful slow rollout. Moderna and Johnson and Johnson are also approved for use in Canada, but they have not yet been delivered in any significant quantity.
Trudeau has been under fire from angry Canadians after admitting early on that the country would not be first in line for vaccines because they did not produce any locally. Then, when the EU put a squeeze on vaccine exports, Canada again paid the price in missed deliveries. The Biden administration has not yet committed to any exports to Canada or Mexico, both of which are suffering from shortages.