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Put in a pin in the smug, Canadians
Celebrating us overtaking the Americans in first-dose shots is like celebrating a race win after your opponent breaks their ankle at the finish line
Just a short note for you as we head into this long weekend. I think it’s desperately needed by all of us. I know for most it will still not be exactly what we are used to or what you were hoping for. But there really is cause for optimism. I hope you are able to enjoy some of what’s coming up over the next three days, secure in the knowledge that there are better times ahead, and soon.
The rapidly improving situation actually led to a moment of awkwardness this week. Although the exact figures vary by source, sometime in the last few days, or sometime this weekend at the very latest, Canada has or will overtake the United States in terms of the percentage of its population that has received at least a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The Americans are well ahead of us on second doses, but we will catch up fast when we begin to pivot to a second-dose phase sometime next month.
After many months of hearing about how far behind we were, I obviously understand why this was received as good news by Canadians. It is good news. But it was pretty cringe to see Canadians celebrating our overtaking of the Americans. The Americans have all the supply of vaccine that they need. We are not overtaking them because of some incredible national accomplishment on our part. This is not a race to put a man on the vaccine moon or something. We are racing ahead of the Americans because the Americans are encountering significant issues with either outright anti-vax sentiment or at least vaccine hesitancy. I guess it’s worth celebrating that we have less of that here in Canada, but it just felt awkward to celebrate the Americans having a hard time convincing their population to take life-saving vaccines.
Vaccine hesitancy and anti-vax sentiment is going to be a serious issue as we try to exit this pandemic. Americans are going to die because of their comparatively low rates of uptake. Not all of those Americans will themselves be anti-vax or vaccine hesitant. The nature of these viruses is such that some of the people who die will be innocent victims of someone else’s anti-vax sentiment or vaccine hesitance. This is not something Canadians ought to feel good about. We’re winning the race because our competitor tripped and stumbled near the finish line, busting their ankle in the process.
Hey, I’m glad we’re crossing the line. A win's a win. I feel more optimistic than I have in months. But I’m worried about our friends to the south. I’m worried about all of us, because until this thing is crushed everywhere, it will remain a threat via new variants. Getting the Canadian population vaccinated is a huge accomplishment, and a necessary part of our national pandemic recovery. But cheering our success relative to anyone else’s left me feeling dirty. Consider again my comparison. You’ve won a race because your competitor tripped and fell at the finish line, and injured themselves as they did. You'd look kind of like a jackass jumping up and down with joy as he writhes in pain, wouldn't you?
That was too many Canadians this week.
Our vaccine performance is a cause for relief, and growing confidence. And certainly gratitude. When I got my initial shot of Pfizer, I had a lump in my throat. I was thinking of all that happened to make that possible, from the scientists to the production experts and technicians to the distribution networks right down to the lovely doctor injecting it into my left arm. But this isn't, or shouldn't be, a moment for celebration, especially if we’re celebrating how we’re performing compared to someone else. Much of the world remains unvaccinated due to a shortage of vaccines. Celebrating that would be like celebrating every good meal by delightfully reminding yourself that there are people starving to death today.
Most well-adjusted people would know better than to do that. It was surprising this week for me to see so many not realizing that the same general logic applies to those who either do not have, or refused to accept, COVID-19 vaccines.
Sorry to be a bit sour, but I wanted to say that. Find below, as always, my thread of this week's work. Enjoy! (Remember to click on the tweet, or this link, and scroll down.)
And other than that, hey. Enjoy the long weekend. Happy Victoria Day! Talk to you all next week.