We Canadians love to compare ourselves to the United States. Whether it’s mocking their cable news networks, celebrating our health-care system or just generally feeling high and mighty during the age of Donald Trump, saying “at least we’re not like the U.S.” is basically a part of our national identity by now.
But sometimes when you build your entire national identity based on comparing yourself favourably to you southern neighbours, the tables take a turn and you find yourself on the negative side of the evaluation.
Most recently, Canadians fed up with the glacial pace of our national COVID-19 vaccination campaign have had to watch the American campaign continue to ramp up and expand.
Suddenly, the same America we slammed for its pandemic response is doing something better than us. And Canadians hate to see it.
This week, U.S. President Joe Biden announced the U.S. is expected to fully vaccinate all adults by May, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is expected to announce Americans can return to indoor group socializing soon, as long as everyone is vaccinated.
“That’s progress,” Biden said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Canada’s biggest provinces are entering yet another month of lockdown restrictions including business closures, social gathering restrictions and travel advisories. In British Columbia, health officials have formally delayed second doses of the vaccine by up to four months with the hope of getting adults at least partially vaccinated by July. And provinces tentatively looking to loosen some restrictions are quick to offer the caveat that they could snap right back.
As for the vaccine campaign, Canada has fully vaccinated 1.46 per cent of its population. The U.S. is swiftly approaching one in 10 Americans with both jabs. The total number of Americans vaccinated as we enter March is nearly equal to the population of Canada.
Canadians took to social media this week to share their frustrations — and FOMO — with how we compare to our southern cousins.
Why is there such a discrepancy? A lot of it comes down to manufacturing power. Canada is reliant on other parts of the world, including the U.S. and European Union, to ship vaccines here as there aren’t any domestic production facilities for the approved vaccines in Canada.
While we have ordered millions of doses, they aren’t shipping yet. The Canadian government has deals lined up with approved vaccines like the ones made by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca, as well as ones made by Johnson and Johnson that haven’t been approved yet. Those deals don’t guarantee instant delivery, though. They are reliant on complex production schedules.
This week, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki ruled out sharing American supply with other countries, like Canada, before all Americans have the chance to be vaccinated.
“The president has made clear that he is focused on ensuring that vaccines are accessible to every American. That is our focus,” she added.
While the U.S. turns its attention to convincing vaccine skeptics to get the jab — with a little help from Dolly Parton — Canadians are left waiting.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cautioned Canadians Wednesday against directly comparing ourselves to the U.S., and noted there are many parts of the pandemic that we did a lot better than they did.
“Obviously, the pandemic has had a very different course in the United States with far greater death tolls and case counts and that has had its own impact on the American economy that Canadians haven’t quite felt the same way,” Trudeau said.
“So it’s always something we have to be careful about in comparing each other, but certainly we’re going to get as many Canadians vaccinated as quickly as possible by following the science and following the best recommendations of our experts.”
“Obviously, the pandemic has had a very different course in the United States with far greater death tolls and case counts and that has had its own impact on the American economy that Canadians haven’t quite felt the same way.”
Trudeau said he’s optimistic every Canadian who wants it will get the vaccine by September, and that that timeline could even be moved up.
“We need to make sure we’re doing it safely and that projections we’ve had for many, many months certainly hold,” he said.
“But we’re also very optimistic that they’re going to be able to be moved forward if indeed all the vaccines that we’ve contracted for are able to be manufactured and shipped in the right ways.”