Michael Taube: "Procuring vaccines is one thing. Distributing them properly, effectively and swiftly is quite another."
“We are all in this together and we are there for you.”
Does this ring a bell?
It should. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it during a March 18, 2020, press conference – the week after the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 had become a global pandemic.
In the days that followed, Canadian businesses and schools rapidly shut down during the coronavirus’s first wave. Many of us began to self-isolate and work from home, if possible.
Phrases like social distancing became part of our daily vernacular. We were told to wash our hands, keep two metres apart and wear non-medical masks.
Emergency relief funds were announced by the federal government to help individuals and families in need. Provincial governments followed the same path. Schools and businesses reopened in the fall but we headed into a second wave of COVID-19, and so on.
I don’t have to describe every minute detail of the past year. We all know them, for the most part. We’re all still living with them.
But there are several important caveats, including one I’m about to highlight.
If we’re all in this together and trying to get back to normal as soon as possible, what on Earth are the feds doing when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines?
The Trudeau Liberals have struggled to get a proper grip on vaccine distribution. Canada has procured up to 398 million doses from several companies. This sounds good on the surface but there’s a problem: more than 70 per cent of those doses are for vaccines that still haven’t been approved in the Great White North.
Procuring these vaccines is one thing. Distributing them properly, effectively and swiftly is quite another.
Pfizer has reduced its vaccine shipment to Canada by more than two-thirds since mid-January. It will take several more weeks to sort things. Moderna also announced that only three-quarters of its vaccines will arrive in Canada this week. That’s a reduction of about 50,000 doses.
Which brings us to … hang on … oh, that’s right, nothing!
There are no other vaccine options in Canada. These delays are extremely serious. As more people test positive for COVID-19 (which they undoubtedly will), more people will get sick – and, in some cases, die.
It’s harsh to write something like this. Unfortunately, there’s no other way to describe the situation at hand.
Ottawa hasn’t been helpful, either.
During a Jan. 19 interview of CBC’s Power & Politics, Procurement Minister Anita Anand said she was speaking with Pfizer to resolve this situation. Good to hear. But when she was pressed by host Vassy Kapelos about the prime minister speaking with the drug company, she hemmed and hawed every time.
The situation changed after Ontario Premier Doug Ford called Pfizer Canada president Cole Pinnow on Jan 20. Ford was well aware that his discussion wouldn’t change anything and the vaccine wouldn’t arrive any faster. But at the very least, he gave the appearance he was trying to do something for Ontario and Canada.
Two days later, the PM announced he had spoken with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. Quelle surprise.
A worse situation occurred on CTV’s Power Play. Greg Fergus, a Liberal backbencher, said more vaccine approvals were needed to meet the September target. The two vaccines he confidently mentioned, Astra-Zeneca and Johnson & Johnson, haven’t been approved in Canada. CTV was forced to speak with Anand, who confirmed the government’s position hadn’t changed.
The bewildered looks on the faces of show host Evan Solomon and the other two panelists, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner and NDP MP Peter Julian, said it all.
It’s no secret that I disagree with Trudeau and the Liberals on virtually everything. This isn’t a partisan position, however. It’s an issue of health and safety. If it was a federal Conservative, NDP or Green government, I’d have written the very same thing.
Please get a handle on the COVID-19 vaccine situation, prime minister – and fast.
As well, please live by your own words.
Unless we’re not all in this together. Just kinda, sorta, maybe.
Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.