Politics

Former prime ministers quietly line up with the crowds for their COVID-19 shots

Canada’s former prime ministers have started getting their COVID-19 vaccines as the country continues its slow march toward full immunization.

Trudeau says he'll wait to get his until he can convince 'the most possible people to get it'

Former prime minister Joe Clark gets his COVID-19 vaccine shot at City Hall in Ottawa on March 23. (@catherinejclark)

Canada's former prime ministers have started getting their COVID-19 vaccinations as the country continues its slow march toward full immunization.

Both Jean Chrétien, 87, and Joe Clark, 81, got their shots in Ottawa this week. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson tweeted out a photo of Chrétien being vaccinated.

"I feel like there is something very Canadian about our leaders lining up with everyone else to get their COVID-19 vaccine," Watson tweeted.

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney, 82, has also had his first shot of the vaccine.

These low-key vaccine visits by former prime ministers are quite different from the very public show former U.S. presidents have made of getting their shots.

Former U.S. presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, along with their first ladies, have received their shots in the full glare of the media. They're also taking part in a national campaign aimed at encouraging other Americans to get vaccinated.

"Right now, the COVID-19 vaccines are available to millions of Americans and soon they will be available to everyone," Bush said in a YouTube video promoting vaccine use that came out earlier this month. 

"This vaccine means hope. It will protect you and those you love from this dangerous and deadly disease," Obama said in the same video clip.

Former prime ministers Paul Martin, 82, and Stephen Harper, 61, have yet to respond to questions from CBC News about their vaccination plans.

"No, I haven't yet been vaccinated. Yes, I am hoping to be," former PM Kim Campbell, 74, told CBC News.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, 49, has not had his shots yet. He said he's waiting for a moment of maximum impact.

"I can only get my first vaccine once, and the moment I choose to do that should be a moment where it encourages the most possible people to get it," Trudeau said recently on Peter Mansbridge's The Bridge podcast.

Trudeau said that while his government has seen polling suggesting that some Canadians are hesitant to accept the vaccine, he has yet to see that emerge as a threat to the vaccination campaign. He said that once more people have been vaccinated, including the elderly and front line workers, he might try to set a public example.

"Maybe me getting a vaccine and others visibly getting a vaccine at that moment, saying, 'Now's the time to get it, you really should get it,' would have a bigger impact than if I'd gotten it back in February when everyone was trying to, you know, fall over each other to get it," Trudeau said.

"I'm just looking for the best way to be useful on that."

With files from the CBC's Philip Ling

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