A year into the pandemic, the demand for vaccines far exceeds its availability. Decision makers are faced with the challenge of distributing rationed supplies to achieve maximum benefit.
With the inability to produce our own vaccine, we are left relying on other countries, and we continue to yo-yo between various levels of lockdown and stay-at-home orders.
Currently, about 35 per cent of Canadians have been vaccinated with their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination. Soon, the race will begin to ensure everyone gets their second dose within the promised four-month window. Boosters will likely be required to provide long-term effectiveness, and to address new emerging variants.
It is imperative for Canada to solve the vaccine supply issue and to ensure that we have our own vaccine production capability as soon as possible.
Within the healthcare system, wait times for “non-essential” surgery continues to grow. Operating rooms across the province sit idle in order to empty out post-surgical patients from the hospital and make room for the medically ill. Operating room personnel has been redeployed to help in other areas of the hospital.
The reality is, most people waiting for “non-essential” surgery have already been suffering for too long. Remember, the health system was plagued by “hallway healthcare” and use of “unconventional spaces” long before the COVID pandemic.
We have to stop sugar coating how we are doing as a nation and demand better. The strength of our partners to the south has allowed them to vaccinate ten times the population at a breathtaking rate. They are once again enjoying freedoms that we hope to regain one day soon. They have shown their strength, and are becoming free.
Canada’s strategy to delay the second dose is not by choice, but out of necessity. There is good evidence that a single dose prevents severe illness or death, a minimum standard. Two doses provide longevity and better protection, especially for those who do not have a robust immune system.
Luckily, the existing variants have been responsive to vaccines. What if a single dose is facilitating the selection of stronger variants, like the selection of superbugs when people don’t finish their antibiotics? The strongest will survive. Vaccine hesitancy is already any issue. Long delays may prevent people from following through with their second dose, especially if case counts are lower.
As a nation, our vision must be set higher.
Rationed vaccines on a rationed healthcare system should be unacceptable. If we want to be the True North strong and free, we must have everyone vaccinated with both doses as soon as possible and be prepared to mass produce a booster when needed. That should be our minimum standard.
Dr. Rohit Kumar
Vice Chair of Ontario's Anesthesiologists