Federal government’s vaccine rollout all about politics

Priorities based more on the shortage of vaccines than ensuring vulnerable populations are inoculated

Ken GreenRecent guidance for vaccine distribution published by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) shows how horribly politicized Canada’s pandemic response has been.

At the very point of administering the ‘jab of life,’ the government can still not play it straight and follow what’s actually the science, which is the reality of who gets sick, whose risk of death is highest and who, therefore, should be first in line for a vaccination.

Really, this should not be brain surgery – the data from the government are right here:

  • Hospitalizations for COVID-19 over 60: 70.2 per cent of cases;
  • ICU admissions for COVID-19 over 60: 65 per cent of cases;
  • Deceased over 60: 96.4 per cent of cases;
  • Deceased over 70: 88.5 per cent of cases;

Can there be any reason why vaccinations aren’t being given out according to age, and therefore risk, alone?

The government seems to think so.

In Stage 1 of the vaccination rollout plan, (corresponding to the first quarter of 2021), “Adults in Indigenous Communities” are to be vaccinated ahead of people between 60 and 69, who will wait for stage two despite being at higher risk than the majority of the younger population of Indigenous communities.

And that Indigenous population is younger: Based on the 2016 census, “The Aboriginal population is young. The average age of the Aboriginal population was 32.1 years in 2016 – almost a decade younger than the non-Aboriginal population (40.9 years).”


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In Stage 2, the 60-to-69-year-olds get their shots, but they’re listed third after “Adults in or from Indigenous communities not offered vaccines in Stage 1” and “residents and staff of other congregate living settings, (e.g., quarters for migrant workers, shelters, correctional facilities, group homes).”

Also in stage 2, you get “Adults in racialized and marginalized communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19.”

Does anyone know what that means? Yes, arguably the government has a responsibility of care for those in government-controlled living settings, but should that responsibility come before those at higher risk?

It’s not until Stage 3 (the third quarter of 2021) that the people who have demonstrated high-risk health histories get their chance at the jab. That’s when “Adults 16-59 years of age with an underlying medical condition at high risk of severe illness due to COVID-19 and their essential primary caregivers” get their moment of governmental grace. That’s when your father with heart disease and who may have had a few near-fatal bouts with pneumonia gets his chance at the vaccine.

None of this is to pick on our Indigenous people or any other population group, demographic, profession, historically abused or otherwise. They absolutely deserve to be vaccinated according to risk, as does everyone else.

But there can be no hiding the fact that the government’s vaccination priorities are not about risk as much as they are about rationing to cover a shortage of vaccines and being sensitive to matters of social justice.

That’s inherently not following the science. In fact, that government will skew the science at this absolutely critical juncture has to make you wonder how they’ve been playing the ‘science’ of this pandemic all along.

The government of Canada is playing politics with Canadian lives with its vaccination priority guidelines and it should reverse course. People facing the highest direct health risk should get the jab first. People facing lower levels of direct personal health risk should get it in strict order of their risk level.

There’s no more time to waste on politics. It’s time for the government to get serious about saving Canadian lives in the face of a pandemic that may not have shown us the worst it has to offer us.

Time and lives are wasting.

Kenneth Green is a senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

Kenneth is one of our Thought Leaders. For interview requests, click here.


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