Covid Vaccines in Canada

I just talked to my sister in BC. Both she and her husband have pre-existing health conditions. My sister has asthma, and her husband just finished cancer treatments, and they’re both over 60. She said they can’t get a vaccine until late summer or later. She was supposed to come down to Oregon this summer for a visit. I thought Canada had a good health-care system.

Our health care systems are doing fine at distributing the vaccine we’ve managed to obtain. We have not been able to obtain vaccine doses at a rate that is satisfactory. This is largely due to a combination of some production glitches as well as the US and EU claiming dibs on their domestic production while we in fact have no domestic production.

The federal government has taken a great deal of flack over the slow rate of delivery thus far, though it is not entirely obvious what exactly could have been done by our government to counteract the aforementioned delivery issues.

Finally, late summer for over 60 is probably pretty pessimistic. If the manufacturers actually meet their contractual obligations, we’ll have pretty much everyone in the country vaccinated by late summer. While we don’t really expect that to happen, over 60 should be put someone at about 25-30% down the line, and that’s not taking into account the vaccine-skeptical who’ll let others in front of them. And, in fact, the very story you’ve quoted says BC health officials are saying people 60-64 should be able to book appointments at the end of March, that everyone over 18 will be fully vaccinated by end of September, and that with the AZ vaccine approved and new recommendations about 2nd dose spacing everyone might have their first dose by end of July. That doesn’t even account for potential J&J doses being available.

Verdict: almost the entirety of the issue is vaccine acquisition, not distribution, and those issues have nothing to do with the quality of the health care system.

My 83 year old mother complained that a friend went for a 4pm appointment yesterday and they didn’t get out until 5:45. I pointed out that they left at 5:45 with a dose of vaccine in their arms.

Logistics at the moment aren’t great but it will pick up as we get the hang of it. I think AZ and J&J will end up being given my doctor’s office or the pharmacy. AZ is also not recommended for seniors, so that will accelerate vaccination in front line workers.

Is this a fair summary? The UK has, thus far, been relying on Pfizer and Astra Zenica, which til now has mostly been manufactured in the EU, and supply has not been an issue. Was Canada tardy in getting its orders in?

The health system is fine. Politicians, not so much. As mentioned, there appears to have been an issue with supply. However after having a year to prepare, there still doesn’t seem to be a solid & coordinated plan to contact citizens for their vaccination nor has there been much thought put into exactly which groups will be performing the deed. Pharmacists & nurses have offered their support but as always, the politicians are bumbling through indecisively, their primary concern being how they can come out from under all the incompetency with reputation (such as it is) somewhat intact.
Scientists & health experts say one thing, politicians take that information and weigh it against how it will affect their personal gain and enforce rules & regulations according to that.

As I understand it, Canada’s orders with Pfizer and Moderna (the Oxford/AZ vaccine was only approved here last week) were amongst the very earliest. A few weeks back there were some production hiccups in the EU which led to a couple weeks with almost no deliveries to Canada. Apparently we didn’t even try to get our hands on any US production. The EU made some noise about restricting exports, but I don’t know if that has actually had any impact on deliveries to Canada, or if the delays were entirely down to production issues. Both the government and the drug companies continue to maintain that quarterly delivery goals will be met.

None of that has stopped critics of the government from howling in outrage about how Trudeau has completely messed up vaccine purchasing and why are we so low on the list of countries in terms of %pop vaccinated. Those inclined to dislike young Justin (and in the west there are a great many of those) have been playing this issue up a lot. Provincial health authorities (health care delivery is provincial jurisdiction, not federal) have been pretty cautious about raising expectations, particularly after those weeks where deliveries were pretty much non-existent. People are looking at what their provincial authorities are telling them and then assuming things will be worse than that, when actually if what we’re hearing from the feds and pharmas is true things will be substantially better than that.

I guess we’ll know in the next couple months.

Fingers crossed. I know there was some sabre rattling by the EU at the drug companies (AZ in particular) and they threatened to restrict exports, but I think they backed down in the end.

Of course, the EU’s handling of vaccine purchasing has been a total calamity.

I would think that the capacity to develop and manufacture vaccines would be an integral part of a national health care system. Canada has top level medical facilities and University medical programs. Why wasn’t Canada able to develop and produce a vaccine?

She’s not reporting accurate information - likely has been told this by “someone” who does not actually know anything.

The amount of misinformation going around about this is simply astounding.

From your linked article:

Health officials say Phase 3 of mass vaccination, which includes people aged 79 to 60 years and people aged 16 and older who are extremely clinically vulnerable, will begin in mid-April.

I’m not sure how “Mid April” translates into “late summer or later”. I guess some people just have to make stuff up in order to complain.

There is no “national health care system”. There are 12 provincial and territorial health care systems, with federal subsidies and a federally mandated framework of standards. Whatever the feds did or did not do with respect to vaccine development and acquisition has nothing to do with any of the health care systems. The distribution and administration of the vaccines does, and that’s being constrained by supply issues.

Canada does have its own domestically developed vaccine, but it’s still in the clinical trial stage. There may also be licensing agreements to produce some of the others domestically.

Thanks for this wolfpup.

It’s good to inject a little factual information into the conversation.

That’s awesome news. It would be great to see my sister this summer. I’m still learning how the health care system works in Canada, even though my sister and brother in law have been patient explaining it to me. Thanks for the article.

National health systems deliver healthcare, they don’t develop and manufacture drugs. They purchase them from drug companies like anyone else.

Would it be more efficient for the national health system to be involved in vaccine development and manufacture?

It would be even better if Canada had any domestic sources of vaccine production, which it apparently doesn’t.

Somehow Canada managed to contract for considerably more Covid-19 vaccine doses than it needed, while shooting itself in the foot by depending on European production, which has run into glitches and threats of banning exports outside the EU.

Currently, the country leading the world by a wide margin in getting vaccine doses to its citizens is Israel (96 doses per 100 citizens). A ways back is #2, the UAE (about 62 doses/100), then the U.K. (32/100) and the U.S. (24/100). Canada? 5.4/100.

I’m not surprised there’s been major political fallout over this mess.

Possibly, but what escapes many outside of Canada, is that Canada has no national health system. Rather, it has 13 provincial and territorial health systems.

The alternative to European production would have been to attempt to acquire American production. While the EU has threatened to ban exports, the US has actually banned exports. It would seem we got this part right at least.

Maintaining domestic production capacity would probably be a good idea, but would require significant subsidies to maintain. That’s why we don’t have any to begin with. “Why should we continue to subsidize this industry,” said the government some decades ago, “when for far less money we can just purchase from our reliable allies.”

I don’t think that’s accurate:
“That’s partly because the country decided to invest in vaccines from European factories, afraid that the US, under former president Donald Trump, would issue export bans.”

“In December, Mr Trump did issue an executive order to give Americans “first priority” for vaccines produced in the US, though it was considered a mostly symbolic move. President Joe Biden has not suggested a change of course.”

I think the EU did the same thing with “first priority”.
I hope Canada’s decision not to place orders for US vaccines wasn’t misplaced. See article:

It may not technically be a ban, but the US is not exporting any vaccine.