OTTAWA, ON (April 14, 2021): “Excess deaths” (death rates above the norm) from non-COVID causes are a major explanation for Canada’s poor pandemic performance compared to other advanced countries. That is one of the key conclusions of today’s weekly update of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute’s COVID Misery Index.
Doctors are warning that Canada’s COVID response has led to a decline in cancer screenings, as well as other critical diagnoses and treatments. That raises the question of whether Canada is making the right trade offs given that COVID is not the only threat to our health.
“New variants of COVID-19 could dampen the optimism coming from the roll-out of vaccines,” writes Richard Audas, a health statistician and the designer of the COVID Misery Index. “In Canada, although the data lags behind other countries, excess death rates remain high and the current public health restrictions will only exacerbate this.”
As well, cases are rising and provincial governments are increasing the severity of lockdowns. This will again hit Canada’s rankings at a time when other countries with better rates of vaccinations are improving by opening up.
MLI’s COVID Misery Index is the only tool available to Canadians to monitor the impact of the virus, and government pandemic measures on the country. It compares 15 peer nations by capturing the impacts on human health in terms of cases, hospitalizations and deaths (our Disease Misery), how government is doing in combatting the virus whether by successfully rolling out vaccinations or by having to resort to lockdown measures (our Response Misery) and the cost in terms of jobs, growth and public finances (our Economic Misery). The Index is updated on a weekly basis, tracking the overall scores throughout the pandemic and analyzing changes over recent weeks.
The most recent update of COVID Misery Index has Canada languishing in 11th place. And a number of key indicators in recent weeks suggest that things are in fact getting worse.
Over the last four weeks, Canada’s Disease Misery performance has been dropping steadily, showing the spread of the disease itself is worsening here relative to other countries.
Looking closer at two particular metrics, Canada has had the worst rates of “excess deaths” among all peer countries for those aged 85+ in recent weeks. Canada also remains among the worst countries for excess deaths among those aged 15+ in recent weeks, even though COVID-related deaths remain low. This suggests that the health care system is suffering more broadly, and other threats to life and health have been exacerbated, including cancer as referenced above.
While Canada’s Disease Misery outlook is worsening, the overall Response Misery has seen a slight improvement. This is mainly due to the fact that we now outpace the average among peers in terms of first vaccinations administered (most will require two doses). In fact, in the last week, Canada’s pace of administering first vaccine doses was only topped by the United States.
However, Canada still places 11th out of 15 in terms of overall full vaccinations. And though we have climbed up marginally from the very worst position in recent weeks, Canada is still 14th in terms of overall Response Misery over the course of the pandemic.
What’s ahead for Canada? “We remain particularly concerned with the elevated rates of excess deaths and the desperate need to improve access to health care for non-COVID-19 related reasons,” notes Audas. “In our next update, we will begin to see the negative impacts of new restrictions imposed in Canada’s most populous provinces.”
For more information, consult the links below.
- Check out the COVID Misery Index here.
- Read the update briefing here.
- Read the written analysis and full methodology here.
- Download the data for yourself using this link.
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