Opinion

We’ve suffered from Zoom fatigue. We’ve hit the pandemic wall.

We’ve suffered from Zoom fatigue. We’ve hit the pandemic wall.

And now, many Canadians are grappling with a new COVID-19 co-morbidity: vaccine envy.

Over the past few days, there has been no shortage of stories about how Canadians are turning various shades of green as we watch our neighbours to the south quickly and efficiently get injections while most of us continue to wait.

Perhaps it’s the stunning come‐from‐behind pandemic response story currently playing out across America that’s tugging on our sense of fairness.

Tom Petty knew what’s up; waiting "is" the hardest part. And it feels a bit like we’ve all been sequestered in the world’s most glacially paced waiting room, with nary a 10-year-old Canadian Living to flip through. According to Manitoba’s vaccine queue calculator, there are 347,536 people in front of me if 70 per cent of qualified people get vaccinated.

But perhaps it’s the stunning come-from-behind pandemic response story currently playing out across America that’s tugging on our sense of fairness. After all, as Tracey Lindeman points out in The Atlantic, Canadians have been good. We’ve been compliant. We’ve worn the masks and we’ve stayed apart and we’ve stayed home.

"And what do we get?" she writes. "Per capita vaccination numbers lagging behind those of 50 other countries, including Brazil, Chile, Turkey and much of Europe, according to Johns Hopkins University’s immunization tracker."

Well, when you put it that way...

Canada is now in a race against the variants of concern taking hold in this country — a race we cannot possibly expect to win if we don’t start running faster.

Manitoba’s sluggish vaccine rollout has been frustrating, to put it mildly. Just over the border in North Dakota — the state that only a few months ago had the worst per-capita COVID-19 morbidity numbers in the world — 35 per cent of the population now has had at least one shot, and 23 per cent are fully vaccinated. North Dakota has used 87 per cent of its vaccines. Manitoba’s usage rate is about 58 per cent.

Canadians tend to be a smug lot. Online, whenever an American woman shares her hospital bill after giving birth, some Canadian will inevitably burst in there like the Kool-Aid Man to say, "I only paid for parking." We share footage of a raccoon stealing a cruller in a Tim Hortons and caption it "meanwhile in Canada..." as if to say, look how quaint. Look how pure. Look how good. Look how much better we are.

The late, great Robin Williams once said Canada was like "a really nice apartment above a meth lab." Are we upset that the proverbial meth lab is cleaning up its act — or, at least, polishing up the beakers a little? Or, are we upset that we have absolutely nothing to be smug about when it comes to the vaccine rollout in this country? We are not exactly the envy of the world on this file.

Canada is now in a race against the variants of concern taking hold in this country — a race we cannot possibly expect to win if we don’t start running faster. Things change quickly in a pandemic; Manitoba was the envy of the country once, remember. Everyone looked on our blissful patio selfies with seething jealousy last summer. And then a second wave came crashing down on us.

And let’s remember that while it’s difficult to resist making comparisons between Canada and the U.S., we are different countries with different resources.

Some tips for dealing with low-grade vaccine envy — or its pithier cousin, jab jealousy: let’s resist the temptation to look at a vaccine as a reward for good behaviour, or something one "deserves." Let’s instead try to be happy for a nation that was absolutely rocked by a raging virus and finally did what the rest of the world has been imploring it to do all along: respond. And let’s remember that while it’s difficult to resist making comparisons between Canada and the U.S., we are different countries with different resources. Vaccines are getting into arms here — but we need to pick up the pace.

Besides, a vaccine is a bit of a passport to nowhere, at least for now. As Globe and Mail columnist Ian Brown put it: "What you can do, after you have been vaccinated — besides not die of COVID, and hang out with other vaccinatees — is this: You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (that is, who all live together) without a mask, unless someone’s at risk for severe illness. That’s the big thrill that awaits us in the medium term."

Waiting one’s turn is never easy — especially when it feels as though it will never, ever come.

But it will. And so, we wait.

jen.zoratti@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @JenZoratti

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti
Columnist

Jen Zoratti is a Winnipeg Free Press columnist and co-host of the paper's local culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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