Loading articles...

Canadians getting COVID-19 vaccine envy watching U.S. vaccine progress

Last Updated Apr 13, 2021 at 6:31 pm CDT

OTTAWA (CityNews) – Canada’s third wave of COVID-19 has eclipsed the first two, as new daily cases counts average almost 8,100 across the country.

But as Canada makes a push to vaccinate all adults in the country, Canadians can’t help but get jealous watching the shot rollout stateside.

The percentage of Canadians who have received one COVID-19 shot sits at just above 20 per cent, while the U.S., which started vaccinating at around the same time, has delivered at least one dose to around 36 per cent its population.

Even though the U.S. is strides ahead of us, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he has no regrets about Canada’s vaccine rollout.

“Obviously we worked extremely hard from last summer onward to sign many different contracts with many different vaccine makers around the world, and we were among the first countries to start getting approved vaccines into arms back in December,” said Trudeau.

Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine supply is entirely imported and supply disruptions have been a regular occurrence. So far, every approved vaccine has seen delivery problems, with Moderna being the latest. There’s been a one-week delay due to quality control issues.

“[The delay is] because of the nature of the global supply chains, because of the nature of the ramp up that these companies are doing around the world, various vaccine manufacturing sites,” explained Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Dominic Leblanc. “Obviously, desperately trying to maximize their capacity and output, there would be from time to time some delays that are inevitable in these processes.”

As the country deals with delivery delays, the question of why we’re not making our own COVID-19 vaccines returns.

Though Canada has extensive vaccine production, pharma experts say they’re designed to make existing vaccines, not cutting edge mRNA shots.

“It’s very tricky, it’s a very delicate operation to get it to work,” explained Paul Grootendorst, professor of pharmacy at the University of Toronto.

“mRNA is a completely different beast. You’re using a very… delicate procedure. You’re trying to replicate RNA strands, and you’re wrapping it up in a very small globule of fat, so it can get into the body intact and get into cells. So it’s a very different production methodology.”

Grootendorst adds Canada’s existing vaccine production is akin to virus manufacturing – creating flu viruses, and weakening them for use as vaccines. The mRNA vaccines are still very new, and it’s not possible to simply retool those existing facilities. Pharma giant Pfizer has just two facilities in the world making COVID-19 shots, one in Belgium and the other in Michigan.

Grootendorst also says that patent laws in Canada also favour generic medications, meaning pharma companies may find it unappealing to set up shop to make new biologics on Canadian soil.

– With files from Xiao Li, CityNews