December 14, 2020

Canada, United States Have Approved COVID Vaccine – More On What Comes Next

Last week’s Connecting the Dots touched on what early COVID-19 vaccine distribution would look like in the United States. Since then, governments in both Canada and the United States have approved emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and phase one distribution is expected to begin within days.

The U.S. government also reportedly decided last week to buy 100 million additional shots of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, a number that is double its initial order. That vaccine expected to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on or around December 18.

What will things look like from here? It is still largely unclear, but Connecting the Dots will continue to try to provide up-to-date information to MSCI members.

As reported last week, frontline healthcare workers in both countries will be the first recipients of the vaccine. In the United States, this group totals approximately 21 million people. According the medical news site STAT News, the Trump administration has said more than 40 million doses will be distributed in December, but “some in healthcare are skeptical of” that prediction and think the number could be lower since manufacturing problems often arise. (And remember: because the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two doses, 40 million doses still would not be enough to provide coverage for all U.S. healthcare workers.)

After healthcare workers receive the vaccine, distribution is expected to go to:

  • People aged 65 and older, a group that totals about 50 million U.S. residents;
  • People with underlying conditions, or about 80 to 100 million individuals in the United States; and
  • Essential workers, a group that totals between 40 and 60 million Americans since approximately 70 percent of industries have been deemed essential.

As The Wall Street Journal explained, in addition to policymakers in each U.S. state, hospitals will play a large part in deciding which individuals get the vaccine first.

In Canada, meanwhile, according to CTV News, the plan for distribution is to focus on priority groups between December and March 2021 and to begin vaccinating the general public in April. The country hopes to have all Canadians who want the vaccine immunized by the end of 2021 with one of the seven vaccines Canada has signed deals to secure. (Again, only one of those drugs has been approved by Canadian regulators so far.) In its initial shipment, Canada will receive approximately 249,000 doses from Pfizer, enough to fully immunize 124,500 people since, again, each person needs two shots. Click here for more information about where these initial doses will go.

Also last week: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his government will cover the costs of the coronavirus vaccine, including the costs of supplies to administer them.

One other issue Connecting the Dots will explore in the coming weeks is whether employers can require their employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine. As CTV News reported last week, employment lawyers have said that in Canada there is legal precedent that would allow employers to require employees to get vaccinated, but the eventual rollout remains in uncharted legal and ethical territory. Click here to read more.

As a reminder, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine options are not the only possibilities out there, of course. Sixty-seven vaccine candidates are currently in various stages of clinical trials around the world. More than 10 billion single doses could be available by the end of 2022 if all the frontrunner vaccine candidates are approved.