Poignant irony

It is not that Canada is afflicted with the troubling and distressing inequity that has emerged in the international distribution of Covid-19 vaccines between rich and poor nations. While populations in poorer countries in the world have little, or no access to Covid-19 vaccines, as of October 4, the Canadian government had confirmed delivery of 64,341,614 total doses to the provinces.

Also, data on the Covid-19 Vaccination Tracker website on Monday indicated that 87.9 percent of these doses delivered to the provinces had been administered. Earlier this week, it was reported that more than 29,375,799 Canadians have received at least one dose of an approved Covid-19 vaccine, while there are 27,157,099 persons who are fully vaccinated with the two required shots. Canada’s total population is estimated to be around the 38.01 million mark.

Despite these compelling and voluminous numbers of vaccines that are being delivered, distributed, and administered on a national, level playing field, it is with wonderment that we greet the disturbing news out of Manitoba earlier this week that the province is well on the path to a heightened and severe fourth wave.

What this means is Manitoba could potentially see hundreds of new daily cases, and dozens of patients in ICUs, by the end of this year. According to a CBC News report, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, Dr Brent Roussin, noted with growing solicitude that current trends in daily case numbers and hospitalisations were in line with the “severe” scenario set out in its pandemic modelling released in August.

“We’re in a trajectory right now that could take us to a place where we’ll see quite a significant amount of strain on our health care system; unless we change it,” Roussin cautioned. It appears that Manitoba is heading for the growing burden of infections and fatalities that is now straining Alberta’s overwhelmed health care system. As was reported on Monday, Alberta had a record 45,665 Covid-19 cases in September, with more Albertans testing positive for the infection than in any month prior.

This exponential growth in cases set new admission records for hospitals and ICUs in the province. Fatalities also spiked in September, making it the cruellest, deadliest month since January 2021.

It must be noted that despite the availability of millions of doses of vaccines, and its distribution on a level playing field throughout Canada, around 90 percent of new Covid-19 infections, and admissions to critical life-saving ICUs, have been among the unvaccinated.

It is bewildering that such an intense fourth wave could surge and overwhelm provinces such as Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, despite the voluminous availability and equitable distribution of millions of doses of life-saving vaccines. The irony is too poignant to escape notice when such equitable, national distribution of vaccines in Canada is held up to the inequity, and unavailability, that is being endured by poorer nations elsewhere.

Indeed, this poignancy was felt last month, when the inequitable international distribution of Covid-19 vaccines was consistently brought into focus at the UN’s annual meeting of world leaders. Here the podium was constantly inundated with speakers who lamented about the disparity in accessing shots, and its dire lack for indigent populations that have little to no access to life-saving vaccines.

As South African President Cyril Ramaphosa pointed out, the global community has not sustained the principles of solidarity and cooperation in securing equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines for all nations in the world.

Said Ramaphosa: “It is an indictment on humanity that more than 82 percent of the world’s vaccine doses have been acquired by wealthy countries, while less than one percent has gone to low-income countries.” It is also an indictment on humanity that despite equitable vaccine distribution in Canada, health care in some provinces is being overwhelmed by the unvacinnated.