Canada has fully vaccinated 48.8 per cent of its population against COVID-19, overtaking the U.S. rate for the first time after a delayed start caused by procurement troubles and distribution bottlenecks.

In the U.S, where vaccinations are plateauing in some regions, 48.6 per cent of the population is fully inoculated.

Of those old enough to get the vaccine in Canada, 55 per cent have now received two doses, according to calculations by CTV News based on provincial and federal government data. Health authorities have approved the Pfizer Inc. shot for children 12 years and older.

Rapid progress in the vaccine campaign -- Canada had fully vaccinated about 3 per cent of its population by the middle of May -- is opening the way for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to relax travel restrictions on the eve of a likely election campaign. The government will announce details of the new border rules Monday.

Trudeau said last week that Canada will be able to welcome fully-vaccinated travelers from the U.S. as early as mid-August, and from all other countries by September, if “the current positive path of vaccination rate and public health conditions continue.”

Although vaccinations are ramping up faster now in Canada than in the U.S., Canada’s slower start has placed it behind the U.S. in reopening its economy. Canada’s lockdowns were also generally stricter and longer-lasting. In Ontario, movie theaters, indoor dining and certain other indoor activities were allowed to open on Friday after being closed for months.

Canada’s economy is projected to grow 6.2 per cent this year, compared to 6.6 per cent U.S. growth.

The U.S. is battling outbreaks of delta variant in pockets of the country where mistrust of vaccines is high. Surveys have shown greater willingness among Canadians than Americans to get jabbed, perhaps because of an overall greater trust in government and public health authorities.

The U.S. is “more polarized,” Janessa Griffith, a researcher at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto who has studied vaccine skepticism, said by phone. “Somehow it became tied into political beliefs that if you wore a mask or not, that was a symbol of where you stood politically.” Public polling has shown much higher rates of vaccine hesitancy among U.S. Republicans than Democrats or independents.

Canada’s slow start was attributed to difficulty in obtaining vaccines and working out logistical distribution among provinces, which shoulder the bulk of responsibility for health care in Canada.