A reckoning

Written by Brenda Schimke

What a sorry state the world is in today. Rich countries squabbling to get their hands on every last vial of vaccine to pacify their entitled citizenry. The Canadian government reclaiming part of its $440M vaccine purchases to COVAX, the international vaccine sharing facility—perfectly legal, but morally suspect—to pacify Canadian’s anger over vaccine production problems. Singapore and New Zealand doing the same thing and the U.S. not contributing a dime to COVAX.

The feds put their early efforts into securing vaccines from multiple companies and multiple countries, four times what we need, knowing that the privatization of vaccine production in the 1990s left Canada willfully unprepared for a pandemic. 

As expected, when Canadians weren’t receiving vaccines as quickly as some first world countries, the electorate, media talking heads, premiers and opposition members all went ballistic.

These international corporations gleefully took pre-paid vaccine orders from Canada and other countries, even though it became obvious early on that their production capacity couldn’t come close to meeting their contractual delivery commitments.

There is a silver lining, however. Canadians now understand the importance of home-grown vaccines and production facilities. 

Yet, will we remember that lesson post-pandemic?

The federal government is investing in a facility in Montreal and last week Premier Brian Pallister of Manitoba announced an agreement with Providence Therapeutics of Calgary to purchase millions of doses of their yet-to-be approved vaccine with a commitment to fund a production facility. Manitoba is providing critical seed money for this private company to succeed.

It makes you wonder why an Alberta company had to go to Manitoba to get government investment?

Even though rich countries are best positioned to buy their way to the top of the list, it’s no magic bullet. Until enough people are vaccinated worldwide, life will be restricted. Just look at Newfoundland, an island that has kept its cases very low with tight border controls, yet today is fighting an explosion in COVID cases.

I’m no scientist, but I do know science takes time, multiple hypotheses, experiments, failures, successes and peer reviews. Solutions come slowly. The international scientific community has been stellar in the speed at which they developed vaccines, but that’s just the beginning of beating back the COVID-19 virus.

Scientists are still learning about the virus’ behaviour. How long does the vaccine’s immune protection last? How protective are the vaccines against the new and ever evolving variants? Can the person receiving the vaccine still become infected and asymptomatic?  Can that vaccinated person still transmit the virus to someone else? 

Right now, scientists only know vaccines help reduce the severity of symptoms and prevent deaths.

That means even after vaccination, we must continue to follow all public health measures including wearing a mask, social distancing, limited social contacts and personal hygiene.

We’re bored, impatient, angry and ready to explode, but, alas, we need to find ways to accept and cope with this unwanted interruption until we’ve beaten the virus worldwide. Especially now as new, more dangerous variants have arrived, compliments of entitled Canadians still travelling internationally.

Summer is around the corner and that gives us more freedom from the pandemic. 

Internationally-produced vaccines will continue to arrive, albeit slower than we want. By late 2021, we will have domestic production in place and hopefully a Canadian-produced vaccine delivered from Manitoba. 

By 2022, poorer countries will finally have access to sufficient amounts of vaccines and then, and only then, will we return to the world we so desperately want.  I fear, without dramatically changed expectations and an abundance of patience, this pandemic will be with us much longer than need be and could easily lead to social unrest and even violence.


Brenda Schimke

ECA Review

About the author

Brenda Schimke

Schimke is a Graduate with Distinction from the University of Alberta with a BCom degree. She has lived and worked in Alberta, BC and Ontario.