Canada hit a significant milestone this weekend, fully vaccinating about 50 percent of its population and topping the U.S. vaccination rate for COVID-19.
A report by Health Canada shows that nearly 70 percent of Canadians have received at least one dose of the vaccine, bringing the country very close to the 75 percent mark that public health authorities say is necessary to reach herd immunity.
In the U.S., however, less than half of the population—48.6 percent—is fully vaccinated, while about 56.3 percent have received one dose, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When CNN’s Kate Bolduan questioned why the U.S. is falling behind its northern neighbour, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, blamed it on politics.
“Canada is doing better not because we are trying any less than they are trying. It’s because in Canada, you don’t have that divisiveness of people not wanting to get vaccinated, in many respects, on the basis of ideology and political persuasion,” he said Monday.
In early spring, millions of Canadians were still in lockdown as the country suprassed the U.S. in COVID-19 cases per capita for the first time. Things have drastically turned around.
“We’ve seen record levels of vaccination, Canada is leading the world in terms of first doses and we’ve just passed the Americans in terms of fully vaccinated Canadians,” Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau said Monday during an infrastructure announcement outside of Toronto.
Andrew Young, founder of grassroots organization Vaccine Hunters Canada, started the organization in March to help to find vaccines for Canadians who are struggling to book appointments or find clinics. Vaccine Hunters Canada uses the IT and social media skills of about 100 volunteers to connect Canadians with vaccines.
“I think our real niche was hope if I could put it that way,” Young told CNN. “There wasn’t much hope in terms of the constant lockdowns, increase in cases, closed down schools. So to me, Vaccine Hunters represented hope and the niche that it filled is that it connected all the provinces with its rollout strategies so we had a consolidated platform for Canadians nationwide.”
“I still see us as pretty important in terms of helping get the word out, helping amplify the voices of certain groups who needs a little boost,” added Young, noting that the “last percentage” will need more creative strategies as Canada confronts its own vaccine hesitancy.
International travelers may also be allowed to enter Canada beginning September 7th, provided that the “COVID-19 epidemiology remains favorable,” the Canadian government said in statement released Monday.
Canada will continue to prohibit all foreign travellers who are not fully vaccinated.