After months of enviously watching the U.S. vaccinate people faster, Canadians are finally starting to catch up—and Canada is set to match, if not surpass, the U.S. by June, considering Americans likely won’t reach herd immunity while vaccine hesitancy remains high.
So far, about one-third of Canadians and nearly half of Americans have received their first jab. In Canada, a little over 3 percent of people are fully protected, whereas in the U.S. more than a third have received both doses of a two-dose vaccine.
But the huge gap between the two countries could shrink soon as U.S. vaccination rates taper off and Canadians secure more doses after a supply shortage. According to Our World in Data’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker, Canada’s daily vaccination rate first surpassed the U.S. rate on May 5, when the country vaccinated 0.66 people per 100 while the U.S. vaccinated 0.64. The gap has only continued to widen, with Canada vaccinating 0.79 people per 100 on Sunday—and the U.S. rate dropped to 0.6.
“As vaccine demand starts to lag in the U.S., demand is far outpacing supply for our northern neighbours,” CNN’s Jake Tapper said in a Canadian segment aired last week on The Lead.
Governors in northern U.S. states and in Alaska have offered to share vaccine doses with Canadians in an attempt to speed up border reopening—the U.S.-Canada border has been firmly shut to nonessential travel since the pandemic’s onset. In Montana, Canadian truck drivers were given doses, while Alaska shared spare doses with a tiny Canadian town in an effort to reopen the border. The Blackfeet Nation in Montana also offered vaccines to members of the Blackfoot Confederacy as well as the town of Cardston, Alberta, last month. There is no word yet on when the border will reopen, and experts say it’ll likely remain closed for at least a few months.
“The vaccine euphoria is far from over here,” a reporter told Tapper about Canada, adding that the country could catch up to the U.S.’ single shot rate by June and fully vaccinated rate by summer. Anthony Di Monte, the person in charge of Ottawa’s vaccine rollout, told CNN he’s confident more than 80 percent of eligible people in the city will get vaccinated.
In the U.S., more than a third of people say they won’t get vaccinated, according to pollster Ipsos, while nearly 80 percent of Canadians say they’ll get jabbed when eligible. Canadian government data confirms that more than three-quarters of citizens want to get vaccinated, even when factoring in vaccine hesitancy among racialized people traditionally mistreated by the health care system.
Devon Greyson, a University of Massachusetts professor in health communication, told Global News part of the problem is vaccine access—an issue that plays out in both countries. But that doesn’t discount anti-vaccine misinformation that’s proliferating online.
Misinformation “is taking place on both sides of the border, but has been exceptionally pronounced in the United States,” Greyson said. “When vaccination becomes an identity issue, including part of one’s partisan political identity, the views can get quite entrenched and harder to correct with information itself.”
Time will tell whether Canada will hit herd immunity before the U.S., or at all. Canada is currently battling a deadly and difficult third wave, which has caused hospitals to be overwhelmed and widespread lockdowns across the country. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 1,286,666 COVID-19 cases in Canada and 24,626 deaths. The country became one of the first to grapple with three major variants of concern at once, and last week, Alberta became North America’s COVID hotspot—as of Sunday, the province had 576 active cases per 100,000 people. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that Canadians are rushing to secure a jab that’ll (hopefully) bring back some normalcy.
For months, low vaccine supply in Canada, fostered by the country’s inability to produce its own shots, hamstrung a confusing and slow vaccine rollout. But now, vaccine supply is growing, with pharmaceutical companies scaling up shipments. Two million doses of the Pfizer vaccine are expected to arrive in Canada this week alone, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said since the beginning that all eligible and willing Canadians will be fully vaccinated by September.
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