The data are what have caused a public fixation on Israel’s thus far unsurpassed effort to vaccinate its population.
I fully support Our World in Data’s mandate: transparency is critical to effective public policy.
Nonetheless, all data must be understood in context, and I am concerned about the way critics of Canada’s vaccine roll-out have responded to the numbers.
As of this past Saturday, Canada ranked 10th in terms of the cumulative COVID-19 vaccination doses administered per 100 people.
We were behind Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, the US, Denmark, the UK, Italy, Slovenia, and Lithuania, but ahead of – presumably – well over 150 other countries.
Moreover, at 0.78 doses per 100 Canadians, our numbers were more than 2.5 times the global average of 0.3.
Still, according to the Globe and Mail’s Konrad Yakabuski, a growing number of Canadians are likely to be concerned that our vaccination campaign “has not kept pace with those under way in Britain and the United States.”
I don’t doubt that Yakabuski’s views reflect the thinking of a good portion of our population, but I struggle to understand why Canadians would expect us to be able to keep up with these two states in the first place.
The United States is the wealthiest country in the world, with a purchasing power that Canada could never dream of.
And while the United Kingdom has four National Health Service systems, Canada has ten independent provincial health systems along with three territories, each of which is difficult to access at the best of times, let alone in the middle of winter.
Both the US and the UK also have higher population densities than Canada does, which helps when the vaccines available are difficult to transport.
The challenge with charts is that they tend to lack such context.
Even worse, since this global vaccination effort is unprecedented, we have no real way to judge what an acceptable pace of vaccination might even be.
This difficulty doesn’t mean that we absolve our governments from their responsibility to serve the public interest responsibly, but I fear that we are using the wrong metrics to gauge success.
I would suggest that accountability be measured by (1) whether our officials are true to the vaccination schedule that they have already promised; (2) whether we understand how the speed of that process – including the prioritization of the recipients of the vaccines – has been determined; and (3) whether measures are being taken to enable open and transparent reviews of the national and provincial responses to this pandemic when we are finally past it.
It is too soon to pass judgment on number one. Information on part of number two is accessible here. Good work by the national media has added further detail.
I’m not yet satisfied about number three, but I remain hopeful.
In sum, there are lessons to be learned from other countries’ vaccination successes, but managing the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out is not a competition.
So let’s use the valuable information offered to us by The World in Data to improve our vaccination efforts, not to complain about our ranking on a list.
Over the last year, I’ve been really impressed by the work that Michael Garron Hospital has been doing in the Greater Toronto Community. I pay particularly close attention when anyone from Michael Garron has something to say about COVID-19.
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