#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 12 January Update

Steep rise of infections remains the main story, along with resulting increases in hospitalizations and ICUs.

Vaccinations: Some minor shifts but general convergence among provinces and countries. Canadians fully vaccinated 78.7 percent, compared to Japan 78.8 percent, UK 71.4 percent and USA 63.4 percent.

Immigration source countries are also converging: China fully vaccinated 87 percent, India 46.8 percent, Nigeria 2.4 percent (the outlier), Pakistan 34.7 percent, Philippines 49.4 percent.

Trendline Charts:

Infections: Effects of Omicron seen in steep curve in all G7 countries and provinces. No such effect in immigration source countries

Deaths: No relative changes but slight uptick in Quebec.

Vaccinations: Ongoing convergence among provinces and G7 less Canada and narrowing gap with immigration source countries. Nigeria remains the laggard.

Weekly

Infections: Alberta ahead of Germany, Australia and Philippines ahead of India, India ahead of Atlantic Canada. 

Deaths: Atlantic Canada ahead of Pakistan.

Fair amount of commentary on Quebec’s announcement of a health tax on the unvaccinated, with most commentary opposed to the idea. A notable exception on the right side of the political spectrum, Tasha Kheiriddin:

What to do about the unvaccinated? As Omicron tears through Canadian society, this public health question has become a political wedge issue. The Liberals and Conservatives have chosen sides, ramped up the rhetoric, and polarized the debate, each playing to the base they think is most likely to support their point of view.

With 88 per cent of Canadians over the age of 12 fully vaccinated , the Liberals figure they’re pretty safe siding with the crowd that favours the jab. Regrettably, they have chosen the strategy of demonization. On Friday, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos speculated provincial governments would make vaccination mandatory, which he said could be needed to get “rid” of the virus.

During the election campaign Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the unvaccinated “misogynists and racists.” He dialled that down a bit last week when he said that Canadians are angry at the unvaccinated who take up hospital beds, but his remarks caused a furor that has yet to subside. This is not accidental.

The sad reality is that there is a subset of the unvaccinated who fit Trudeau’s description; since September, for example, some have been using the hashtag “Pureblood” on social media to self-identify as unvaccinated. You don’t have to scroll far to find tagged images peppered with shots of white supremacy gestures or MAGA hats.

The Liberals’ dogwhistle is designed to conflate these people with mainstream Conservatives — and turn people off Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s call for “reasonable accommodation.” O’Toole is asking for “acceptance” of the fact that up to 15 per cent of the population will not get vaccinated. He favours using rapid tests to keep unvaccinated workers on the job, as opposed to shutting down to stop the spread of the virus.

“In a population that is now largely fully vaccinated, in fact the action and inaction by the Trudeau government is normalizing lockdowns and restrictions as the primary tool to fight the latest COVID-19 variant.”

But this approach is also wrong. First, it relies on unreliable technology. Rapid tests are not good at detecting Omicron infections, particularly in the early stage when a person is infectious but shows no symptoms. Second, it sends a double message. On the one hand, the Tories encourage people to “get vaccinated.” On the other, they make allowances for those who eschew the jab. It’s like saying “wear your seatbelt, but if you don’t, that’s OK.” Well guess what — it’s not. If you get in an accident, it will cost up to three times more to treat you in hospital than if you were buckled up. Sound familiar?

The reality is that we restrict plenty of behaviours where we judge the harm to others, including economic harm, outweighs the limits to individual liberty. We don’t allow people to smoke in workplaces or public buildings. We forbid drinking and driving. And we mandate vaccination for contagious diseases such as measles if children are to attend public school. Why? Because otherwise your actions, or inaction, present a real risk of harm to someone else. They can cause quantifiable loss, in the form of sickness, suffering, even death (yes, last year 200,000 people worldwide died of measles , mostly children under five). People don’t live in a vacuum.

A liberal would cite Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Social Contract, which called for government by popular consent; a conservative would point to Edmund Burke, who rightly observed, “Men are never in a state of total independence of each other.” In other words, there is no freedom without responsibility, no liberty without duty.

When it comes to vaccination, we should protect those who understand this truth from those who disdain it. Vaccine passports, restrictions on interaction and withdrawal of privileges are preferable to calling people names, forcing them to get the shot, or conversely accommodating a choice that puts others in harm’s way. Obliging those who opt out of vaccination to pay a penalty, such as the Quebec government is suggesting, is also a possibility. Such measures are not about cajoling or compelling, though if they do result in more vaccinations, that’s a good thing. They are meant to protect all of us who just want to move on from this once-in-a-century public emergency and get back to living our lives

Source: The unvaccinated must be deterred from harming others

#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 5 January Update and impact of Omicron

Back from my holiday break, three weeks later, the steep rise in infections due to Omicron (likely undercounted given testing constraints).

Vaccinations: Some minor shifts but general convergence among provinces and countries. Canadians fully vaccinated 78.3 percent, compared to Japan 78.7 percent, UK 71 percent and USA 62.9 percent.

Immigration source countries are also converging: China fully vaccinated 86.4 percent, India 45 percent, Nigeria 2.2 percent (the outlier), Pakistan 33.5 percent, Philippines 46.8 percent.

Trendline Charts:

Infections: Effects of Omicron becoming more apparent with steep rise in all provinces, led by Quebec.

Deaths: No relative changes.

Vaccinations: Ongoing convergence among provinces and G7 less Canada and narrowing gap with immigration source countries. Nigeria remains the laggard.

Weekly

Infections: Atlantic Canada ahead of Australia and Japan.

Deaths: No relative change

#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 15 December Update and the rise of Omicron

The latest charts, compiled 15 December, with the effects of Omicron.

Canadians fully vaccinated 77.8 percent, compared to Japan 77.7 percent, UK 70 percent and USA 61.7 percent.

Vaccinations: Numerous minor shifts but general convergence: UK ahead of Canadian North, Atlantic Canada ahead of British Columbia, France ahead of Canada, New York ahead Sweden and Australia, Prairies ahead of California, Japan behind California. China fully vaccinated 83.2 percent, India 38.4 percent, Nigeria 2 percent, Pakistan 26.8 percent, Philippines 38.9 percent.

Trendline Charts:

Infections: Effects of Omicron becoming more apparent.

Deaths: No significant relative changes.

Vaccinations: Ongoing convergence among provinces and G7 less Canada and narrowing gap with immigration source countries. Nigeria remains a laggard.

Weekly

Infections: Germany now ahead of Alberta.

Deaths: No relative change

#COVID-19: Comparing provinces with other countries 8 December Update

The latest charts, compiled 8 December. Too early to assess the impact of omicron.

Canadians fully vaccinated 77.5 percent, compared to Japan 77.4 percent, UK 69.7 percent and USA 60.8 percent.

Vaccinations: Minor shifts: Ontario ahead of Italy and Quebec, Sweden ahead of Alberta, Australia, New York and Japan. China fully vaccinated 79.5 percent, India 35.6 percent, Nigeria 1.9 percent, Pakistan 24.5 percent, Philippines 35.8 percent.

Trendline Charts:

Infections: Recent trends of increased infections in Europe continues. Canadian provincial trends showing minimal change from last week, with Quebec uptick noticeable.

Deaths: G7 less Canada (driven mainly by USA) continue to increase, Alberta has flattened while Manitoba and Saskatchewan are still increasing more than other provinces.

Vaccinations: Ongoing convergence among provinces and G7 less Canada and narrowing gap with immigration source countries given China, and to a lessor extent, India, Pakistan and the Philippines which continue to increase vaccinations. Nigeria remains a laggard.

Weekly

Infections: France now ahead of Sweden.

Deaths: No relative change

Useful analysis of vaccine equity and other challenges for many developing countries:

While vaccine inequity among African countries has played a major role in the continent’s low COVID-19 vaccination rate, experts say capacity and logistical challenges, along with vaccine hesitancy, is also creating significant challenges.

“I’ve seen a number of articles say it’s just vaccine inequity — and that’s wrong. It’s not just vaccine inequity,” said Dr. Ron Whelan, who heads health insurer Discovery’s COVID-19 task team in South Africa.

“[It’s] one part supply, one part health-system capacity and the third part is the hesitancy component,” he said.

“It is a multi-factorial problem that’s got to be solved.”

Dr. Saad B. Omer, an epidemiologist and director of the Yale Institute for Global Health, agrees it’s a more nuanced explanation than just blaming vaccine inequity for low vaccination rates across the continent.

“We expect people to land the plane with a few doses at the airport, do a photo op, [and] people to run to the airport to get their jabs. That’s never happened,” he said.

While about 76 per cent of Canada’s total population is fully vaccinated, on the African continent — home to 1.3 billion people — it’s only about 7.5 per cent, according to Our World in Data.

Delivery expected to ramp up

In October, a report by the People’s Vaccine Alliance — a coalition which advocates for equitable and sustainable use of vaccines, and includes Oxfam, ActionAid and Amnesty International — found that only one in seven COVID-19 vaccine doses promised to low-income countries were actually delivered.

However, vaccine shipments have been on the rise over the past three months and are expected to ramp up in coming weeks and over the new year, according to the World Health Organization.

Yet despite the increases in vaccine supply, experts suggest inoculation efforts in Africa could still face hurdles.

About 40 per cent of vaccines that have arrived on the continent so far have not been used, according to data from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, a policy think-tank.

Some countries have been forced to destroy thousands of doses of donated vaccines from their stockpiles. Namibia, for example, announced on Monday that it had to destroy 150,000 expired doses.

“It is highly regrettable that we are forced to destroy in excess of 150,000 vaccines, which have reached expiry date, because those who are eligible are refusing to be vaccinated,” Namibia President Hage Geingob is reported to have told a news conference on Monday.

According to the Washington Post, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe have all asked drugmaker Pfizer in the last several months to pause vaccine shipments because of challenges with uptake.

Vaccination rates vary widely across Africa and many experts are quick to note that vaccine hesitancy is not unique to the continent; it has been an issue in other parts of the globe, including the U.S and Europe. Child vaccination campaigns for various diseases, meanwhile, have been quite successful in Africa.

“Africa is, in many instances, a well-established vaccine culture overall, ” Whelan said.

But Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, recently told the New York Times that “there’s no doubt that vaccine hesitancy is a factor in the rollout of vaccines.”

News or rumours of potential side effects, she said, “gets picked out and talked about, and some people become afraid.”

1 in 4 health workers vaccinated

Additionally, only one in four of Africa’s health-care workers has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to WHO. That compares to 80 per cent of health workers vaccinated in 22 mostly high-income countries.

Many of Africa’s health-care workers, including those working in rural communities, still have “concerns over vaccine safety and adverse side effects,” Moeti recently told reporters.

Capacity has also been a major issue for many African countries, specifically their health systems’ ability to absorb and distribute vaccines, particularly in rural areas, where health resources are scarce.

“We need significant capacity to deliver those vaccines,” Whelan said.

‘Weak supply chains’

That includes the need for strengthened supply chains and temperature-controlled cold chains required to store Pfizer doses, Whelan said, together with infrastructure to actually track and deliver vaccines to hospitals, clinics and other vaccination sites.

“Many of the countries have weak supply chains, particularly weak cold chain infrastructure. And the cold chain infrastructure is not well set up for the Pfizer vaccine in particular,” he said.

Some countries, including South Sudan and Congo, have had to send some vaccines back because they could not distribute them in time.

Often, Whelan said, that’s the result of issues with health-system capacity, storage capacity and administration capacity.

But reliable capacity also cannot be built without reliable access to doses, said Omer.

“When you are the head of a public health agency or a health minister in a country, you want not only doses, but also predictability in doses,” he said.

Instead, he said, many government officials “don’t know what kind of doses are coming and when they are coming.”

“Often what would happen is that [some African countries] would receive a call saying that, ‘We have doses that we are sending your way, with a month’s expiration left. Please distribute.’ That’s an obviously challenging thing for any country,” said Omer.

Last month, African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and COVAX put out a joint statement, calling the majority of vaccination donations to date “ad hoc” and “provided with little notice and short shelf lives.”

“This has made it extremely challenging for countries to plan vaccination campaigns and increase absorptive capacity,” the statement said.

“Countries need predictable and reliable supply. Having to plan at short notice and ensure uptake of doses with short shelf lives exponentially magnifies the logistical burden on health systems that are already stretched.”

According to a recent WHO statement, since last February, Africa has received 330 million doses from the COVAX program, the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team and bilateral agreements.

Of those, more than 80 per cent have been delivered since August alone.

And so, as vaccine supply picks up, it said, “addressing uptake bottlenecks and accelerating rollout become more critical.”

Source: Vaccine inequity only partially to blame for Africa’s low vaccination rates, experts say

Stop making these excuses for the lack of diversity at your company: Johnathan Nightingale, Hubba

Some practical advice on how to increase diversity in the tech industry and elsewhere:

Learn to search blindfolded

A funny thing happens when you take faces and names off of resumes and LinkedIn profiles. People who would insist that they have no bias or prejudice suddenly start evaluating candidates differently. You find candidates you somehow missed before. Unconscious bias isn’t a bleeding-heart liberal codeword, it’s a real threat to your business and your ability to find top talent. We now use the Unbias browser addon to automatically hide names and faces on LinkedIn. Try it. It really does change the quality of candidate searches, whether it ought to or not.

Cast a broader net

A job posting has one goal: to get good candidates excited enough to start a conversation. Every time a position you post reaches some great people, but they decide not to apply, your hiring program has failed. When a marketing program fails the answer is not to complain that there aren’t enough people out there; the answer is to market smarter. A job posting is no different.

Services like Textio can help you analyze your job descriptions to find obvious points for improvement, but they’re also useful for starting conversations about what you’re really looking for. A long list of bullet-point requirements feels natural, but understand that those lists implicitly select for men, who will apply when they meet a much smaller portion of them. In tech, a common pattern is for hiring managers to say “I don’t care who you are, just show me your hobby projects on Github, or your think pieces on Medium” – but a bit of reflection is all it takes to realize that screening based on free-time pursuits gets you more affluent white men than it does underemployed single moms.

Build the best team

The most pernicious theme I hear from people in hiring positions is that they don’t want to “lower the bar” – that they’d happily hire a more diverse group but not at the cost of individual candidate quality. It sounds rational but it’s wrong-headed for two reasons. First, the implication that any current diversity gap must be a result of lower quality stinks, and ignores everything we know about the barriers many groups face. But second is that it misunderstands your job as a leader.

Your job is to build the best team. You can choose a lot of strategies to get there. But if your strategy is to hire “the best candidate” for each role without regard to the team’s composition, and it’s leaving you with a weaker, less diverse team, then your strategy is failing and it needs to change.

Source: Stop making these excuses for the lack of diversity at your company – The Globe and Mail

“Hidden” opportunity for organizations to build more diverse teams

Good piece by RBC and Ernst & Young on unconscious bias in organizations and how this affects staff development. Summary of recommendations:

The report suggests some of the following questions for leaders to ask themselves to help identify unintentional biases:

  • Who do I take to important client or cross-team meetings?
  • Who do I encourage to lead or speak out at meetings? Am I creating opportunities for those less extroverted to demonstrate their capabilities equally to clients or other colleagues?
  • Do I typically hire the same type of person, or personality type?
  • When I say a candidate is not the right “fit”, what do I mean?

rbc.com – RBC – Media Newsroom.