CALGARY – Canada is number one.
Despite the hitches, delays, and criticism over the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in our country, it has risen past the rest, to sit first among G20 countries in first doses administered.
“Canadians, for the most part, have wanted to do whatever they could to help all of us collectively get out of the pandemic,” said infectious disease specialist Dr. Jim Kellner.
But when it comes to second doses in arms — Canada falls to seventh.
“It’s because of the inconsistent supply that was coming in earlier,” said Dr. Omar Khan, a professor in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto. “But with a more consistent supply happening, plus we’re getting these bulk shipments of more vaccines coming, like for example, Moderna, this is really helping us ramp up.”
But how far can we go? Will we look like Israel, which plateaued after sprinting to 60 per cent? Or more like the U.K., where progress has slowed, but continued.
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“The number last week of new Albertans who got a first dose was only a little under 2 per cent, so, if we can keep that going even at that low of level, if we can keep that going for another four to six to eight weeks, we’ll be well over 70 per cent with first dose of the whole population,” said Kellner.
Experts are now turning their attention to flexible vaccine delivery to reach out into more pockets of society. They say communication will also be key.
“I think that’s actually been pretty open in Canada and pretty transparent so I would like to hope that most Canadians feel like they’ve been well-informed about vaccines and I think that helps with people’s confidence in getting vaccines,” said Kellner.
The final challenge will be addressing Canadians firmly against vaccines, Khan says that population could become a reservoir for the virus.
“The virus is replicating in this population that’s unvaccinated and every viral replication event is an opportunity for a mutation and you can form a new variant,” said Khan. “And really, we don’t want to be the source of a new variant of concern.”
Khan and Kellner stress Canadians need to take advantage of the vaccines now flowing into the country to get their second shots as the Delta variant takes hold.