OTTAWA, ON (April 21, 2021): Deaths from all causes remain the biggest area of concern for Canada, COVID variants are deepening the virus’s impact on the population and we are too reliant on crude lockdown measures in our pandemic response. Additionally, Canadian policy makers are having to make vital decisions based on far less timely data compared to other countries in the Index. These are all conclusions drawn from the latest iteration of MLI COVID Misery Index (CMI).
Offsetting these challenges is the accelerating pace of the vaccine rollout. According to Richard Audas, a health statistician, Macdonald-Laurier Institute Senior Fellow, and the designer of the CMI, these factors taken together help explain Canada’s rise of one place in the CMI’s overall ranking in its handling of the pandemic against peer countries, moving from 11th to 10th place out of 15.
The third, variant-driven wave of COVID-19 appears to be having a significant impact on human health in Canada, affecting its index ranking. The same can be said about our reliance on the blunt instrument of provincial lockdown measures, which will also likely have further negative effects on Canada’s COVID performance.
Moreover, Canada’s “excess death” rate – or the change in mortality rate from the same week of the previous year – remains comparatively high. This indicator represents “perhaps the best measure of the pandemic’s impact,” notes Audas, as it captures the trade-offs facing our healthcare system, and includes deaths from all causes, not just COVID.
To prevent hospitals from overflowing, many health services have been cut or delayed. Though further analysis is required, this trade off may contribute to the fact that Canada’s rate of excess deaths is higher than most other countries in the Index – including many countries with far more COVID-19 related deaths overall.
“As time has dragged on, the impact of this shifting of priorities is being felt in Canada with significantly elevated excess death rates,” writes Audas. “But this metric comes with a crucial caveat: Canada’s data has not been updated for some time and reporting on this metric lags well behind every other country in our comparison. The best tool to fight a pandemic is information and Canada is failing in this respect.”
This is not just an issue with respect to excess deaths; Canada also performs worse than the average among peers when it comes to testing capacity, further limiting our ability to engage in an efficient response to the pandemic.
On the bright side, Canada appears to be trending in the right direction on vaccines. In terms of the proportion of people getting a first dose (most available vaccines require two), Canada is now 3rd of all countries measured in the CMI, though it remains very significantly behind the US and UK and is in fact closer to the average among its European peers. Nevertheless, given the recent uptick in the rate of vaccinations, there is some hope that the end may be in sight.
And yet, Canada’s rate of full vaccinations continues to struggle, languishing at 12th place overall and well-behind peers. The pace of full vaccination in recent weeks remains slow as inconsistent supply, and administration issues, complicate overall efforts to inoculate Canadians.
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 effects on human health in terms of measures such as cases, hospitalizations and deaths (our Disease Misery), how efficiently government is rolling out responses such as vaccinations or resorting to lockdown measures (our Response Misery) and the cost in terms of jobs, growth and public finances (our Economic Misery). The Index is updated regularly, tracking the overall scores throughout the pandemic and analyzing changes over recent weeks.
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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