TORONTO — Despite Canada securing millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines, the rollout and implementation of vaccination programs has been slow so far, drawing criticism and anger from the public and health sector alike.
“We’re not getting these needles into arms as fast as we need to,” Toronto biostatistician Ryan Imgrund told CTV News.
Nationally, less than one-fifth of one per cent of the population – an estimated 56,845 people — has been vaccinated, compared with the U.S., where about four times as many people per capita have received the shots, according to data from Oxford University’s online tool “Our World in Data.”
Our World in Data has Canada listed far below other countries like Israel and Bahrain, when measuring vaccines administered per 100 people:
• Canada at 0.14
• United States at 0.59
• United Kingdom at 1.18
• Bahrain at 3.23
• Israel at 4.37
Federal authorities in the U.S. are also facing criticism for falling well short of their goal of vaccinating 20 million people by the end of 2020, with just two million being immunized so far.
In Canada, the slow pace is being blamed on limited supply, poorly planned vaccination programs in some provinces and the technicalities of deep-cold storage needed for the Pfizer vaccine.
Manitoba, for example, closed its vaccine clinics on Dec. 23, and will not reopen them until Tuesday, Dec. 29.
Ontario received 90,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, and expects the arrival of 53,000 doses of the newly approved Moderna vaccine by the end of the month, but only 13,200 doses have been administered as of 4 p.m. Monday.
Ontario health authorities faced harsh criticism for slashing vaccine clinic hours over the holidays, with only five out of 19 operating over Christmas. But the Ontario Ministry of Health argued that was requested by various hospitals due to staffing issues.
That decision didn’t sit well with some health-care providers.
“The virus doesn’t take a weekend, [it] doesn’t take time to sleep at night…and it certainly doesn’t take Boxing Day or the holidays [off],” said Doris Grinspun of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario.
Head of the Ontario Vaccine Task Force, Retired Gen. Rick Hillier, said that “clearly we got it wrong.”
“We’ve been slammed, we’ve been spanked. We’ll pick up out game, we’ll get on from here,” he told CTV News.
The arrival of the easier-to-store Moderna vaccine is hoped to speed up the vaccine rollout nationally, as Canada surpassed 15,000 COVID-19 related deaths since the start of the pandemic.