The announcements of the approval (and subsequent administration) of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Modernavaccines have been met with cheers from across Canada, as people finally see a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.
For University of Toronto PhD students of epidemiology Jean-Paul R. Soucy and Isha Berry, it’s meant the chance to add something more to their COVID-19 Canada Open Data Working Group site.
“Back in March, Isha and I noticed there wasn’t really a source for a pan-Canadian picture for COVID-19 — information was scattered across different provincial websites,” Soucy told HuffPost Canada.
“We wanted a central repository of information.”
And so, they built it.
Where the data comes from
Since then, OpenCovid.ca’s dashboards have been tracking everything from the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths to hospitalizations. Now, they’ve added vaccine doses to the mix.
The information is coming from a variety of sources, Soucy explains, noting that Quebec has it displayed prominently on their main data website, Ontario adds it in the fairly regular Ministry of Health reports, and for other provinces, it’s a matter of collecting it from press conferences and the like.
Since two doses of the vaccine are currently needed in order for efficacy, the numbers right now reflect how many have been administered, rather than total numbers of Canadians who are vaccinated.
“I assume it will get easier in the future,” he says.
The visualization of the information is a potentially helpful tool for all Canadians, who might understandably glaze over case rates after nine months of the pandemic. Fatigue has set in, winter has arrived and optimism is sorely needed.
“I think it serves as a little positive ray of hope,” Soucy says. “It’s good to know that the vaccines are here, they’re more effective than we could imagine, they’re rolling out earlier than we hoped, and they’re rolling out in greater numbers than we hoped. It shows that these sacrifices we’re making are meaningful, that they mean something.”
So far, Quebec, Ontario and B.C. have received the lion’s share of doses, while the territories have yet to receive any, as they are waiting on the Moderna vaccines (which don’t require the same storage capabilities).
But as a student of science, Soucy can’t help but strike a cautionary tone, especially for the coming months.
“I don’t think we should mistake this for ‘oh, well, now there’s a vaccine rolled out, we don’t have to worry anymore.’ I think in many ways January will be one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult of the pandemic so far.”
Take a look at the VaxView map on OpenCovid.ca for the most up-to-date information.
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