Canadian wants no presents, just Covid vaccine for 94th birthday

Canadian wants no presents, just Covid vaccine for 94th birthday

Shipments of initial doses of the newly authorised Moderna Covid-19 vaccine arriving at selected ports of entry in Canada on Dec 24, 2020.
Shipments of initial doses of the newly authorised Moderna Covid-19 vaccine arriving at selected ports of entry in Canada on Dec 24, 2020.

TORONTO: All a Canadian woman wants for her 94th birthday is a Covid-19 vaccine, according to a handwritten sign outside her home in Toronto.

"I am 94 today! No gifts, just the vaccine please," it reads.

Nina Rockett's daughter Margot made and hung the banner at her mother's house in Canada's largest metropolis when she turned one year older on February 24, amid mounting frustrations with the relatively slow pace of Canada's vaccine rollout.

Canada has ordered or reserved more than 400 million doses of vaccine from seven suppliers, and started inoculating its citizens in December 2020 with the first authorized candidates made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. A third one developed by AstraZeneca was approved on Friday.

But the nation, with no vaccine production capacity of its own, hit a bump in the past month with shortages and delivery delays linked to European manufacturing issues.

So far less than three percent of Canada's population of 38 million has received at least one shot.

"It was the night before my mother's birthday and I realized she is turning 94 and she has no vaccine," Margot said in an interview with AFP.

She lamented "a lot of broken promises" and a lack of firm information from doctors, public health officials and governments. Each of Canada's 10 provinces is responsible for administering vaccines purchased in bulk and distributed by the federal government.

"What is happening here is terrible, is shameful," she said.

"I was fed up and I thought I just want the world to know that she is 94 and she is worthy of having the vaccine -- and she wants it."

As she spoke, the sounds of a passing car honking its horn broke the uneasy quiet of the neighborhood in a city that has been in a pandemic lockdown since December 26.

It's been two days of "horns honking, thumbs up, (passersby) yelling I support you" and sharing stories of being unable to see their isolated elderly parents or grandparents for fear of unwittingly passing on the novel coronavirus to them, Margot Rockett said.

"I think everybody should hang a banner like this outside their door or window or balcony" to raise awareness of the plight of the elderly in Canada over the past year, she commented.

As of Friday, Canada has reported more than 858,000 cases of the coronavirus and 21,865 fatalities.

The bulk of them have been in Ontario and Quebec provinces where more than nine out of 10 Covid-19 deaths were people aged 60 years or older.

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