By Lethbridge Herald Opinion on May 29, 2021.
While some doctors and medical professionals in the province are sounding alarms about the optimistic nature of the Kenney government’s three-stage “open for summer” plan to ease restrictions, time will tell if some of those predictions come to pass and Alberta ends up in a possible “fourth wave”.
In the meantime, many in the business community are welcoming the opportunity to swing open doors and bring back patrons, but the enthusiasm is slightly more muted this time around. Business owners have seen and heard these pronouncements from government before, only to see further lockdowns and severe restrictions eat into their bottom lines. So the optimism is a little more cautious coming from owners or managers that have been burned before. ‘Fool me twice’ is an old adage that is taking on new meaning for Alberta’s business community as it grapples with the economic fallout of the pandemic.
The one major difference between previous lockdowns and all of us emerging from the present one, is the potential for mass vaccination to offer a lifeline to provincial citizens in taking an active part in putting the boots to the remnants of COVID-19 still racing through Alberta.
That being said, mass vaccination would appear to be the key to the success of the reopening plan, with the provincial government tying first-dose vaccination rates and percentages to the different phases of reopening. Beyond the obvious medical and public health reasons for associating reopening schedules with vaccination rates, there may have been other factors at play for the province in making shots in arms a critical factor.
Vaccine “hesitancy” – or even outright opposition – has been a significant factor in combatting the pandemic in Alberta in the past six months since the vaccine rollout has gained steam. Misinformation campaigns, anti-maskers and those in radical defense of civil liberties have not made it easy to enforce public health orders, and recent crackdowns in some areas seem more knee-jerk reactionary than aimed at a blanket approach to enforcement.
However, tying first-dose vaccine rates to reopening schedules puts the vaccine- hesitant and opposed on the back foot in Alberta. If the province is unable to reach a 70 per cent threshold called for in Stage 3, those of us who have done our due diligence and gotten our shots will likely be expressing less-than-charitable opinions about some of the citizens that inhabit that final 30 per cent.
It would also have the dual effect of largely muzzling the allegations of civil liberty activists. If you haven’t gotten vaccinated, the province could argue that these individuals have no one to blame but themselves for restrictions being maintained due to a lower-than-expected vaccination percentage.
Wider support will quickly drop away if the province digs in its heels in reaching a desired threshold, as it can easily point the finger at these individuals and groups – rightly or wrongly – as a factor in preventing Alberta’s larger population from enjoying a return to a normality in 2021.