Margaret Grant’s hospital is filled to near full capacity with sick, dying patients. Sometimes, there’s not enough ventilators, and she’s forced to choose who will live and who will die. One of them, a 63-year-old, would’ve had the vaccine by now if he was living in the United States, but instead, he dies from COVID-19, still unvaccinated after months of waiting.
As a geriatrician, Dr. Grant works directly with elderly patients, one of the most high-risk populations, but as Canada goes through its third wave of coronavirus, she feels more stressed now than this time last year. Back then, there were no vaccines. Now, though, they exist… just not in Canadians’ arms.
“We thought we were going to get some vaccines, and then there was a delay,” said Dr. Grant. “We were actually ready to give out more vaccines, and then we had to close down some of our vaccination clinics because we didn’t have the vaccine. We were all ready to go, but never got what we were promised.”
Whereas America is allowing anyone over the age of 18 to get vaccinated (some states are even allowing 16+ to get Pfizer), with a second dose guaranteed 21 days after receiving the first one, Canada’s shortage—somewhat caused by none other than America itself—is causing major issues. Those who are lucky enough to get the vaccine in Canada, with availability recently opening for people ages 50+, must wait months to get their second dose because there is simply not enough to go around.
When Dr. Grant gets off work, she can’t go anywhere other than her house. She lives in Ontario, near coronavirus mega-hub Toronto, which was forced back into lockdown due to the surge in cases. Her daughter, Meagan, used to go to school in-person, but her middle school recently reverted to online learning. This sounds eerily similar to the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, but this time, due to variants, it’s worse. Worst of all, America isn’t doing anything to help their historical ally in their time of need, a stark contrast to how Canada treated America when they required help (think 9/11, when Canada allowed all planes to land in their airports, no questions asked).
“There have been times in the past where Canada has helped the United States. There is a relationship between the two countries, a willingness to help each other. We are a neighbor; we are willing to help even though we don’t have as much resources as the United States,” said Dr. Grant. “When the United States said ‘we’re not going to do anything,’ I think it was really surprising based on the previous relationship between our countries.”
President Biden, following in former President Trump’s footsteps, is sticking to the “America First” plan, which prioritizes any American who wants to get vaccinated over a high-risk non-American. This means that while low-risk eighteen-year-olds in the US can get the vaccine no problem, a few miles away across the border, high-risk Canadians are dying.
Canada does not have the capacity to manufacture vaccines themselves since they do not have the factories to do so, forcing them to seek help from other countries. Not only is America’s refusal to give its ally vaccines ethically wrong, as their actions lead to people’s deaths, it is economically shortsighted.
Canada is America’s third-biggest trading partner, but because America isn’t giving them vaccines, their economy is struggling. Helping Canada will revitalize their economy once they exit lockdown, which in turn helps America due to the interconnectedness between the two countries.
“[America] is not an island; it’s not like New Zealand or Australia that can just shut down to prevent the input of the disease from other places. It shares a border with Canada and people are crossing the Canadian-American border everyday,” Dr. Grant said. “All these imports and exports are crossing, and they can easily bring coronavirus with them.”
Instead of sticking to the “America First” policy and only giving vaccines to Americans, a lot of whom may not urgently need one, America should help its ally in its time of need and give Canada the vaccines it was promised months ago; when Canada signed deals totaling 400 million doses with vaccine suppliers such as Pfizer and Moderna (their doses never got delivered, with much of the supply going to the US and Europe). After all, the coronavirus will not spontaneously disappear once America gets its citizens vaccinated; eradication is a global process that requires the cooperation of everyone no matter their nationality.
Helping Canada may only be a small step to eradicating coronavirus once and for all, but even a small step in the right direction is better than doing nothing.