Covid Canada Jan25: low & slow

post by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) · 2021-01-26T11:48:53.159Z · LW · GW · 7 comments

🇨🇦 People liked my Canada comment on Zvi's post on Jan 14th [LW(p) · GW(p)], so here's another update as a top-level post. I thought I wouldn't have much to say but apparently I wrote some stuff!

(I want to underscore that this is a rambly summary from someone who does not have the same thorough researchy energy or rigorous models as Zvi or many other LWers in many situations. If you have major decisions to make, use this summary as at most a jumping off point. Slightly BC-heavy because I moved to BC a few months ago and have been getting more news here. Also some of my rambles involve info that is probably common-knowledge to most Canadians who are informed whatsoever, I guess because I'm imagining people from other countries finding this of some interest as a contrast or something.)

So.

It continues to be true that various Canadian authorities are talking about their plan to gradually get everyone gradually vaccinated by September as if it's just a reasonable plan and there's no reason to try do anything faster. Like how someone very conscientious might say "yeah, I'll do a quarter of my xmas shopping each weekend in November and be totally ready by December" which is a reasonable safety buffer for xmas but that is just not the situation here. A weird tone thing.

Maybe things will go faster if we can get some AstraZeneca, or one of the 4 other companies we've got contracts with. We can hope—we've purchased >400M doses for our 38M people. Assuming we haven't cancelled those now that Pfizer has promised us 80M doses by September (enough for everyone).

One conservative MP snarkily summarized this many-company situation as:

"It's like saying that I have negotiated a contract with six fire departments to respond to my fire, but they won't respond for six hours when I do have a fire. And my neighbour has negotiated one contract with a single fire department to respond in five minutes," Chong told host Chris Hall.

"Personally, I'll take the single contract with the fire department that responds in five minutes because that is going to save my house. We are the country that's negotiated the contract with six fire departments ... that's the problem here."

The article explains:

Canada has signed agreements to receive the vaccine from seven companies, including Pfizer and Moderna. Candidates from the remaining suppliers have yet to receive the regulatory green light from Health Canada, though Virani said the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson products are "on the precipice of hopeful approvals."

Here's a vaccines chart, that hasn't been updated since Friday January 22nd for some reason (neither have official government sources according to one link, so I gave up looking)

Chart below suggestions that the lockdowns the various provinces are doing are mostly working, except here in BC where it's kinda plateau'd but low probably because people are like "whatever, we're not ON, QC or AB, we can go out to restaurants and stuff". I dunno. 

Cases:

Vaccines:

My impression is that the upshot of this is that things are just in general moving a bit slower in Canada.

Infections are slower, perhaps due to a slightly different set point on the control system and/or better masking/distancing adoption or something, although we still have our share of anti-mask energy and similar stuff here.

Vaccinations are slower because... lack of ambition, maybe spreading purchases thin, and supply issues, as above.

So in conclusion, re the UK strain, we may have a bit more time to react, potentially, if the doubling rate of the new variant is similarly effectively a bit slower under current conditions here than elsewhere, and we're gonna need it, given how slowly our vaccine rollout is scheduled.

(I would love to see someone model this. Is there an easy way to modify Zvi's spreadsheet to use Canada case numbers, R0 estimates, & vaccine projections? I think, for instance, the substantially fewer cases we've had so far might mean a higher overshoot? Where Canada has 2% of population worth of all-time confirmed cases with 4.3% all-time test positivity, USA has 8% with 9% test positivity. Though that factor may be fairly negligible.)

Writing this was honestly kind of draining, although I learned a bit from doing it. So I am probably not going to write another, or not until there's actual substantial news. We can use the comments of this post for updates, for the next few weeks.

7 comments

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comment by lsusr · 2021-01-26T22:04:32.687Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I am always excited to read anything that examines a global situation from a non-USA-centric perspective. Thank you for writing a concise, quality post based on facts.

comment by swarriner · 2021-01-26T14:43:46.237Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Saskatchewanian checking in here. As with your Vancouver Island example, there's a lot of heterogeneity here too. The south of the province, where I grew up, has extremely low numbers of cases even relative to the sparse rural population, while anywhere north of Saskatoon where I currently live is doing fairly badly relative to their sparse rural population. I don't have a strong gears-level understanding of why this should be except some vague notion that the North sees more traffic entering and exiting in the course of resource extraction industries, and close living quarters associated with the same. Plus something something rampant spread in First Nations which I don't even want to get into. 

Replies from: malcolmocean
comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) · 2021-01-27T10:30:09.776Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Appreciating you chiming in. That's a great point about how different rural communities are doing different. I kind of had the impression some rural areas in the prairies were doing bad, but I didn't off-hand have a sense of where or why. Your rough sketch with vague notions is helpful on that front.

I drove across the country on the way out to BC a couple months ago, and it's indeed hard to imagine the farming areas in the south half of the prairies having much covid spread, whereas it makes sense that resource-extraction areas would for the 2 reasons you describe. That plus exponentials/nonlinearities seems sufficient to explain most of the discrepancy, maybe.

comment by oseiler · 2021-01-26T16:12:58.178Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That pretty much confirms my own impressions, though I'm still pretty pessimistic about how things will go here (in BC where I am, and in Canada generally). I'm willing to be pleasantly surprised, though. Right now it feels like there might be some wishful thinking going on, though I have no specific reason to believe that the vaccination forecasts are wrong, except for things like the Pfizer delays and that we haven't much exceeded 40,000 doses per day for well over a month (https://covid19tracker.ca/vaccinationtracker.html); this doesn't look like we're ramping up.

My biggest concern is how the more contagious variants will factor in, and that we still haven't approved more than the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines; feels like we're not treating this like a race, and that right now is when we need to be the most aggressive (and I'd like to think that the people making decisions understand the risks of going slower). https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/drugs-health-products/covid19-industry/drugs-vaccines-treatments/authorization/applications.html indicates that AstraZeneca's vaccine application was started prior to either Pfizer or Moderna, so feels like they are dragging their feet on a decision (hard to not approve at this point).

More personally, it feels bizarre that according to the current guidelines in BC, my 78 year old mother won't get vaccinated until April/May. She's relatively healthy, though Parkinson's disease does mean she can't isolate herself as much I can. We have a family friend that owns property in Florida who recently flew down there and got vaccinated, to which I can only ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Replies from: malcolmocean
comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) · 2021-01-27T10:26:19.607Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Huh yeah, weird. It's like, what are they waiting for with AstraZeneca?

It is worth noting that I think ~40,000 doses per day is according to plan at this phase, a plan which calls for like a million doses a week as of the start of April. Which sounds like a lot but is still way too slow! (A million a day would be awesome.) But the failure to ramp up continues to be a failure of intending to ramp up, it seems. I'll be quite concerned if we fail to ramp up to even the unambitious levels planned for April. I don't know to what extent useful prep is happening to ensure that we're ready to go hard once we get more doses.

comment by MalcolmOcean (malcolmocean) · 2021-02-07T17:09:00.314Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

News: This article lays out roughly why Canada is way behind on vaccines—no attempt was even made last year to ramp up manufacturing capacity in Canada, instead just a bunch of partnerships, including one with China that completely fell through (other sources (eg globe & mail) have speculated that it may have fallen through in part because China is still grumpy at Canada for arresting the Huawei exec 2 years ago, but that's unclear).

LILLEY: Britain's vaccine success the path Canada should have followed

comment by William_S · 2021-01-26T16:44:02.123Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Here is a regularly updated version of the vaccine chart https://covid19tracker.ca/vaccinegap.html