OTTAWA -- Having botched any pretense of containing the second COVID-19 wave with an effective blitz of testing, tracing and infection isolation, Canadian politicians are being given a shot at redemption.

The smiling-face story of this terribly-sad year is the arrival of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, which should be rolling out toward rolled-up sleeves across Canada in limited numbers next week.

It’s what follows which will decide the electoral popularity of premiers and, even though he’s not responsible for the delivery of health care, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

While retired military generals are being set up as fall guys if the rollout derails, politicians will still wear the success or failure of the immunization operation.

It’s a high-risk mission – and it must be accomplished.

There will be peeves and perhaps panic as vulnerable Canadians watch those they believe to be less worthy of vaccination moving ahead of them in the lineup.

There will undoubtedly be distribution flaws or interprovincial distortions in this massive mobilization effort.

And, if the shameful patterns of the last year continue, long-term care residents and their attending staff will again get shafted somehow.

But the trickiest part comes later in the rollout: Dealing with the anti-vaxxers.

There’s a legitimate argument that the vaccine should be mandatory given it takes about two-thirds of the population for community immunity and the vaccine may only work for six months to a year.

In other words, if Canada hasn’t achieved widespread vaccine compliance by next fall, this microscopic monster could stage a third-wave comeback through the unvaccinated.

Now, for the record, this writer can’t wait to get it. Pick an arm, any arm, and I’ll line up for hours without hesitation or fear to get the shot, all the while booking my winter getaway flights to anywhere as the quick cure for my pent-up travel bug.

But there’s an understandable reaction in a segment of the population which looks at the jaw-dropping speed of the vaccine’s development, mixes in stories of some adverse reactions in the test groups and rejects the needle.

They’re not overly-cautious Neanderthals, but they need to be bombarded with persuasive argument, accurate information and influencer arm-twisting to reinforce pro-vaccination messaging before any government moves to make it mandatory.

There’s already talk of immunity passports for travel and businesses terminating employees who refuse the vaccine.

After all, who could blame enterprises which have teetered on the edge of insolvency for most of 2020 wanting to force employees to get protected against a virus that almost destroyed their livelihood?

If vaccines against measles, mumps and other childhood diseases are mandatory in Ontario public schools, there’s arguably no reason COVID vaccination couldn’t be added to the list across Canada before students return next September.

And contact sports organizations have good reason to consider a mandatory vaccine for the players and perhaps spectators before the stadiums refill next year.

But more than the heavy hand of Big Brother, deploying common sense will be the best weapon to fight those who believe the jab of a cure is worse than the health impacts of the disease.

“Who doesn't need to get vaccinated?,” rhetorically quipped a doctor friend of mine. “The person who loves living his/her/their life this way; wants to stay in lockdown; never board a plane; not send their kids to school; never see loved ones from out of town; plans to work from home indefinitely; sleeps better on a ventilator and thinks indwelling catheters are "super convenient".”

Now THAT’S funny, but it masks a serious message to the wary.

Widespread vaccination is the fastest and surest route to normal life returning for all of us.

But there’s another compelling reason why it’s a no-brainer – the most likely unvaccinated victim is you.

That’s the bottom line.