It was the kind of news that makes a person slap their forehead in disbelief.
On Monday, Toronto Deputy Medical Health Officer Na-Koshie Lamptey told the city that a successful program that sends community ambassadors to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to certain neighborhoods may have to be shut down within weeks because it no gives funding.
Here is the kind of door-to-door effort that is badly needed, involving a few hundred part-time staff, reaching out to individuals and communities where vaccination is low due to isolation, language barriers or hesitation. And everything could end because nobody wants to pay for it.
That’s crazy. Canada spent tens of billions of dollars paying people to stay home during the lockdown. She has invested billions more in vaccines. The cost of treating the sickest of COVID-19 patients has been enormous, while also creating a backlog of surgeries and other procedures that will require billions of dollars more to clear.
But a low-cost, targeted program to overcome vaccine hesitancy — and thereby reduce the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 infection — is up in the air for lack of funds.
It doesn’t make sense, but it’s unfortunately typical of politicians’ lax attitude towards COVID-19 and their reluctance to face the truth – that there’s almost a guarantee that there’ll be another wave this fall, if not sooner will.
Politicians from coast to coast have rejoiced to be reaping the political fruits of ending mask requirements and vaccination records in time for the summer. But those same politicians aren’t taking the low-cost, proactive measures to keep Canada in this good place and minimize the impact of the next wave.
dr Peter June, until recently scientific director of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, said in April that another wave of the disease was “almost seared in” in the fall when people are going back indoors.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has also tried to get the message across that future waves of COVID-19 are likely. “Our greatest risk could be a resurgence that coincides with the return of other seasonal respiratory viruses,” said Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, last month.
Hoping for the best is not politics – a lesson that should have been learned from the December wave of the virus, which has seen cases, hospitalizations and deaths skyrocket and forced governments to temporarily roll back many restrictions.
We must prepare for the worst. And when it comes to COVID-19, we have the tools not only to prepare for the worst, but to prevent it.
It is well known that vaccinations help limit the effects of COVID-19 by reducing the likelihood of hospitalization or death from infection. It cannot completely break the link between infection and disease, but it does reduce it significantly. This means that vaccines – and especially booster shots, as vaccines become less effective over time – are essential, especially for people aged 50 and over.
In this respect, Canada is failing. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but too many of our preventatives just sit on the shelf.
There are still approximately 2.5 million Canadian adults who have never received a single dose of the vaccine, including 225,000 in their 60s. However, uptake of the first dose is at an all-time low, and the introduction of the third and fourth injections has all but stopped. The average daily number of booster shots administered nationwide stalled at about 5,000 in May; At this rate, it would take more than 15 years to crank every Canadian.
But fall is only months away. Smart governments today should invest in the one thing that can prevent a further increase in hospitalizations and deaths.
That means Toronto isn’t the only place that needs outreach programs to break down vaccine hesitancy and make it as easy as possible for people to get their first, second, third or fourth dose.
All levels of government should work together to prepare and take action now to ensure the worst predictions about the next wave of COVID-19 do not come to pass. Otherwise, that loud noise you hear in September could be the noise millions of unbelieving Canadians slap their foreheads.
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