National Post (National Edition)

Dropping the ball on fighting COVID

- HARRY RAKOWSKI National Post Dr. Harry Rakowski is an academic Toronto cardiologi­st and commentato­r

Why is it that some teams are perennial winners and others never seem to win, especially when the stakes are high? Like losing teams, our government continues to break our hearts mismanagin­g this pandemic.

Tom Brady, remarkably at age 43, playing for a new team, just won his seventh Super Bowl when most people thought he was past his prime. He is the G.O.A.T — the greatest quarterbac­k of all time. He almost wasn't drafted by the NFL. He was a slow runner, immobile, with a relatively weak arm. So why has he been so successful? He had incredible drive, fitness, self confidence and the ability to understand the game. It was about his determinat­ion to succeed, his leadership and execution. He was a winner and knew it, and so did everyone else.

In Ottawa we have another goat, only this time the term is pejorative and implies letting your team down by making the bad play that causes your team to lose at a critical time — the intercepte­d pass, the fumbled football, the missed kick that turns victory into defeat.


Canada has secured the largest number of vaccine doses per person in the world, so why are we so far behind in vaccinatio­ns? Ontario will get only a fraction of the promised Pfizer and Moderna vaccine supply in February with no clear delivery schedule in sight. We can't even determine how many doses we actually are promised. The Pfizer vaccine was initially authorized for five doses per vial; now it's been decided that it's six doses per vial. Except that special syringes are needed to squeeze that sixth dose out of the vial, and we don't have enough yet. Why doesn't our government fight for us? Trudeau simply says we are on target. What a mess! Winners, after getting punched in the mouth, get up off the floor and pick up their game.


The expensive Montreal facility still under constructi­on will not likely produce much vaccine in 2021. The prime minister had promised the startup of domestic vaccine production in July. But a day later we were told that significan­t production is unlikely until the very end of the year, or into 2022.

The facility won't be able to make the most effective Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines.

Vancouver's Precision NanoSystem­s offered to build an mRNA-capable facility last year, but only now has the government decided to invest $25.1 million in the project. Too little, too late yet again.

In the meantime, we're being shamed internatio­nally for choosing to be the only G7 country taking vaccines primarily set aside for poorer nations through COVAX.


New virus variants from the U.K., South Africa and Brazil are starting to dominate and threaten the efficacy of vaccines and antibody therapy. Today we continue to inadequate­ly plan for the potential dangers ahead. What will we likely need? Are we content to suffer another losing season?


We continue to lag behind other countries in per capita testing and have an ineffectiv­e, underused tracking system. We need mandatory anonymized cellphone tracking and greater testing. Newer, more accurate antigen-based tests for infection are available and will be essential for travel and better workplace protection, especially as more contagious strains dominate. Why does the private sector have to lead the way in implementa­tion?


We need more accurate data on how and where outbreaks occur to have more precise targeted prevention. We need a national database on who was vaccinated when, with what vaccine, and centralize­d benefit and complicati­on data. This will be even more critical as we will likely need enhanced booster vaccinatio­n to better protect against new virus variants in the fall and winter. Canada signed a contract for an IT platform only recently, when this should have been planned and implemente­d at least six months ago. Again it is late, poor planning.

Different vaccines have different rates of protection, especially for the newer variants. We have no announced plans for antibody testing to determine vaccine efficacy even in our high-risk population.


We need better barrier protection with three-ply and N95 masks to meet evolving needs as new variants dominate and most of the population remains as yet unvaccinat­ed. We also need domestic production of essential medicines.


We need leaders who are there for the whole country, who don't ignore the needs of Western Canada. We need leaders who bring intelligen­t and nimble solutions to restart and grow our economic base. We need leaders who can march our team down the field in the fourth quarter and dare to win and refuse to blandly accept failure.


Canada has the opportunit­y to be the greatest country in the world. We have incredible resources, an intelligen­t and sensible population, world-class universiti­es and institutio­ns and unlimited space. What we lack is the leadership to excel. We are led by politician­s whose primary focus is on winning elections. They lack vision, inspiratio­n, critical thinking and planning. Unless we change we will never live up to our potential, let alone make it to the Super Bowl.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada