Naomi Harris plans to drive to Buffalo, New York, next week from her home in Toronto to get the second dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. At home, her second appointment was set for July 1, but she thought that as a caregiver for someone with cancer, that was too long to wait.
Canada’s slow vaccine rollout has left some people waiting four months between doses. While at least 33% of Canadians have received one shot, just 3% are fully vaccinated.
New daily cases reached a seven-day average over 8,700 in mid-April, according to a New York Times database, levels not seen since a winter surge. Ontario has been among the hardest hit, reporting 3,700 new cases Sunday.
Harris, 47, said she had to be “very pushy” for her mother to get vaccinated in a shorter time than expected. After her mother received a first dose in early March, her second dose was scheduled for June 30, according to Harris, “which was insane because my mom has cancer and is over 80,” she said.
Eventually, their province of Ontario changed the rules for people with certain types of cancer and Harris’s mother received her second dose in early April. Harris is eligible for her shot in Buffalo as a dual Canadian and American citizen who is enrolled in a graduate program in Buffalo remotely. “I can’t take the risk of getting my mom sick,” Harris said.
As supply increases, officials have said, the wait between two inoculations is expected to shorten, and some initiatives are trying to shrink the gap.
Zain Manji, who runs the company Lazer from Toronto, created a text system with a friend that allows people to find vaccination sites near them. Since its start April 30, at least 50,000 people have used it.
“I think there’s been a lot of confusion around who is eligible, which locations are vaccinating people, what vaccines that they’re offering,” Manji said. “People are eager to get it and want to get it as fast as they can,” he added about the vaccine.
The vaccines are coming at a crucial time: Amid a third wave, the worst-affected provinces are reporting case numbers per capita that rival those of India — although figures in India are likely to be underestimated.
In Quebec, a curfew, limits on gatherings, and takeout-only dining have helped to quell cases. Jean-Sébastien Guay, 27, of Montreal had his first shot Sunday. “It hasn’t been perfect,” he said, but officials communicated consistently. “They all work pretty hard to make it work.”
Peter Hotez, a vaccine expert at Baylor College of Medicine, has been pushing for the Biden administration to offer help to Canada. “This is not a time to hold back,” Hotez said in a telephone interview. After writing on Twitter that the government should ship more Pfizer doses to Canada, he was met with emotional stories from Canadians.
Adding insult to injury for some Canadians is the possibility of their country opening travel to vaccinated American tourists. “It’s frustrating for me to sit here and watch my friends in the United States going to restaurants, carrying on as if life is normal,” said Harris, who said she had been in a quasi-lockdown since November.
“In the rest of the world, life is not normal.”