There is hope in the air, and not just because the weather is warmer and the days are growing longer.
Reasons for cautious and physically distant celebrations are in view as humanity is turning the tide against COVID-19. Slowly but surely, vaccines to fight the coronavirus are being distributed across Canada and administered to the country’s most elderly, who are considered most vulnerable to the virus’s deadly effects.
More than 80,000 Manitobans have been vaccinated, but the relative trickle of shots available remains a cause of irritation for many who have grown weary of pandemic-related restrictions. The vaccination rate should rise, and impatience levels should fall, after a third vaccine, from AstraZeneca, was approved by Health Canada on Feb. 26. It will join products from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech that are already part of the nation’s arsenal against COVID-19.
Other vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson and Novavax are in late-stage testing and could soon be approved by the federal government, protecting more people from the worst of COVID-19’s symptoms, cutting the number of positive cases and creating a more uplifting kind of positivity.
It will put Canada’s vaccine-distribution systems to the test. Gaps have already become apparent, especially for older people in rural areas who may struggle to access vaccine super-centres, but logistical problems ought to be easier to fix than epidemiological ones. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed optimism Wednesday that the federal government’s vaccination timeline could be accelerated, adding that more than six million doses of COVID-19 vaccines should arrive in Canada by the end of March.
Optimism is a word that has been in limited circulation in the past year.
More than 2.5 million people around the world have died from complications caused by COVID-19, including more than 22,000 in Canada. Manitoba this week surpassed 900 COVID-19-related deaths.
There was little cause for optimism last fall, as fears of a deadly pandemic winter in Manitoba rose quickly along with the number of positive COVID-19 cases — far too many involving people of colour and the poor, groups that continue to pay inequality’s shameful price. But Mr. Trudeau’s hopeful words coincide with falling numbers of positive virus cases this month. If the daily statistics in this province are any indication, those months of difficult restrictions and newly arrived vaccines seem to be working.
Even greater optimism could follow as Manitobans hear the good news that close relatives or friends have received a vaccination, rather than learning about loved ones who’ve tested positive, grown sick or even died from COVID-19.
We can also be encouraged by how much knowledge all of us — doctors, nurses, researchers and ordinary citizens — have gained about science, especially viruses and vaccines. Even those who have never set foot in a laboratory understand more than ever about how viruses spread disease, and most of us have adopted common-sense methods to prevent viruses from spreading.
It took decades for researchers and doctors to create a vaccine for polio, another viral disease that caused fear throughout the world. It’s taken less than a year for a shared global effort to create vaccines that have been declared safe and effective — an accomplishment that should be considered among the greatest of modern achievements.
Hope is in the air. And like the sunny warmth we’re feeling on these spring-like Manitoba mornings, it’s most welcome.