It’s all a disaster.
The vaccine rollout, in B.C. and across Canada, has been as rough and traumatic as hitting a popular local mudding trail at full speed in your brand-new 4x4.
The “we’re opening up, now we’re closed again” decisions by various provincial governments has been confusing. The owners and staff of our local restaurants have been slammed multiple times with abrupt changes to public health orders.
B.C. teachers and staff have spent most of the pandemic fighting for tougher mask policies and better screening in schools.
Variants of the original novel coronavirus that first reared its head early last year are much more contagious and are making people, particularly younger individuals, sicker faster.
Most of the Vancouver Canucks now have COVID and several of those players – elite high-performance athletes in prime physical condition – have been laid low for days with illness (nothing requiring hospitalization at this point, thankfully).
All of these ongoing problems have been as frustrating as morning snow in April. We’re all done with COVID winter and are more than ready for post-pandemic spring and summer. Everyone is tired of the health orders and restrictions. Everyone just wants a couple of shots in the arm, so life can return to some semblance of normalcy.
Yet we mustn’t lose sight of all we have to be thankful for.
Let’s start with the vaccine itself. The COVID-19 vaccine was developed, tested and produced faster than any other vaccine in history. It took months, not the multiple years it has previously taken.
Imagine for a moment if we had gone through the entire winter without a vaccine. Imagine if the current variants were slamming into us while a working vaccine was still months or even years away.
The speed in which the COVID-19 vaccines were made and the amazing efficacy they have shown in preventing illness and reducing the spread of the virus is a scientific and engineering miracle.
Then there’s the production and distribution.
The experts were telling us last summer that distribution was going to be challenging. The citizens of countries that have their own manufacturing facilities to make vaccine would always go first.
Canada is not one of those countries.
Every Canadian that has been vaccinated so far and every Canadian that will be vaccinated is receiving a vaccine made in the United States, the U.K. or Europe.
That’s why half of the American population has already had at least one dose and many have already had their second shot. By comparison, just 20 per cent of adult British Columbians have had their first shot.
Every adult American that wants the vaccine will be able to get it by April 19. Canada will be about two to three months behind that.
Blame Justin Trudeau or John Horgan all you want but Americans and Europeans were always going to be vaccinated sooner and faster than Canadians.
The Canadian distribution hasn’t been smooth but it was never going to be easy. The federal government buys the vaccine but it’s up to individual provinces to deliver it, leading to different choices and different timetables.
Difficult decisions also had to be made about who (and where) would go first. Here in B.C., it was clear that Indigenous people, particularly those living on reserve, were more vulnerable than the general population.
All the racist grumblings that vaccinating First Nations sooner than the general population was simply political correctness run amok were ignoring the science. Rural, isolated areas far from hospitals with intensive care units seeing severe outbreaks or potential severe outbreaks were vaccinated first and most (but not all) of those areas were in First Nations.
This is basic medical triage at the public health level, not some hamfisted attempt at reconciliation.
Federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole is right to call for a public inquiry into the Canadian response to COVID-19. He’s wrong, however, if he wants to use the findings of such an inquiry as a political weapon. Such an inquiry needs to be done in conjunction with the provinces not to point blame but to learn from mistakes and draft policy and procedures to be better prepared for the next time.
Because there will be a next time.
And that next time might come far sooner and be far worse than what we just experienced.