House Call with Carol Hughes

Finger-pointing won’t help vaccinate Canadians

You don’t have to look too far to learn that Canada has fallen behind other countries in our vaccination efforts. Even when compared against jurisdictions that struggled earlier in the pandemic, we aren’t faring well. In the United States and the United Kingdom, hundreds of thousands of people are being vaccinated every day, whereas Canadians are getting around 20,000 doses administered. As Conservatives and Liberals argue about who is more responsible for Canada’s lost ability to produce vaccines on a large scale, most people are more worried about when we will receive and administer enough doses to stem the threat of COVID-19.

If Canadians don’t feel the federal government is doing everything it can to get them vaccinated quickly, it’s likely because they over-promised when vaccines were being developed and approved. Now we know we won’t receive all of the 4 million doses we expected by the end of March. Whether that’s the fault of the government or not doesn’t ease the concern more Canadians are starting to feel on this front.

It’s obvious that a successful, national mass-vaccination campaign is the fastest way for life to get back to normal, so we can begin to recover on several fronts. No amount of finger-pointing between the provinces and the federal government is going to solve the problem either. Canadians need all-hands-on-deck leadership, a clear and transparent plan and no more excuses.

Any successful plan is going to be transparent, clear and involve every resource the government has to ensure a comprehensive, fast and safe rollout of the vaccine in Canada.

New Democrats have proposed a path that can help give Canadians confidence that government officials can handle this crisis. That starts with a plan for a mass national vaccination program to take place over the next few months. The plan would be made public and use an all-hands-on-deck approach to end this crisis. Ideally, every single person in Canada would know as soon as possible when they will get a vaccine and where they will get it. That certainty would allow for planning and help ease people’s frustrations on the subject.

The NDP approach calls for the involvement of everyone who can help like health care professionals, medical and nursing students, retired health care workers and military personnel so we can make sure that we get this done as quickly, safely and successfully as possible. We should also look at the American example of federally funded and staffed vaccination clinics to augment provincial efforts.

At the same time, we need to ramp up domestic production of vaccines and personal protective equipment (PPE) and establish publicly owned production facilities. That will help us now and let us be ready for the next pandemic before we’re out of this one. Canada’s domestic manufacturing capacity for PPE and vaccines was glaringly inadequate at the outset of the pandemic. Preparation may not be super profitable, but repairing that capacity going forward would be a useful legacy from this event.

For too long we have relied on off-shore drug manufacturing. Now, Canada is the only G7 country taking vaccines from a program designed to help less fortunate countries. At the same time, we are opposing the ability of those countries to produce cheaper vaccines in order to protect drug companies. It’s a sign that we are protecting the wrong interests, especially if we want to solve the pandemic in the quickest way possible.

The next few months will be critical and we have proposed ideas that can deliver a clear, transparent plan for a mass national vaccination campaign and solutions to ensure we aren’t caught off-guard again.