Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listen to Major General Dany Fortin respond to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listen to Major General Dany Fortin respond to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Who should get Canada’s first COVID vaccines — the most vulnerable or superspreaders?

Up to 249,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine will arrive on Canadian soil by the end of the month

Initial doses of a COVID-19 vaccine are set to roll into the country in the next few weeks, and Canadians will be wondering where they stand in the inoculation line.

Which segment of the population will get the first doses, once Canada approves them for use, and how long will it take before most of us are inoculated and we can reach that point of herd immunity?

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has already recommended early doses be given to: residents and staff of long-term care homes; adults 70 years or older (starting with those 80 and over); front-line health-care workers; and adults in Indigenous communities — but there’s still some debate among experts on whether that’s the best strategy for a vaccine rollout.

Dr. Ross Upshur of the University of Toronto’s School of Public Health, agrees with NACI’s recommendations, but he says there’s also an argument to be made for vaccinating those more likely to spread the virus first — including people with jobs in the community that can’t work from home.

“There is quite a vigorous debate and … quite a varied set of arguments about who should go first and the priority list,” Upshur said. “And that’s because people have very deep and different intuitions about what fairness means, and which fundamental values should illuminate the distribution of scarce resources.”

Upshur says prioritization, which will fall to the provinces and territories to determine, will depend on the goal of the vaccination strategy.

If the main objective is to ensure economic recovery by limiting community spread, essential workers might get vaccinated first, Upshur explained.

But if the goal is to limit deaths by preventing our most vulnerable populations from getting COVID, older people, especially those in long-term care, should jump to the front of the line.

“Each one of those aims leads to favouring a different kind of population,” he said. “So priority-setting is a complex task.

“But because there’s going to be a limited number of doses available, choices will have to be made soon.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that up to 249,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine will arrive on Canadian soil by the end of the month, with the first doses delivered next week.

Canada, which is currently reviewing several vaccine candidates, has purchased 20 million doses of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine, and is set to receive four million doses — enough to inoculate two million people — by March.

READ MORE: First Pfizer vaccine shots to be given right at delivery sites, not LTC homes

Kelly Grindrod, a researcher and associate professor at the University of Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy, says the concept of prioritizing the COVID vaccine may be hard for some to grasp.

Grindrod agrees with NACI’s recommendations of where the first stage of vaccine distribution should go, but subsequent stages of rollout become trickier.

Certain individuals may perceive themselves to be in a higher-risk group and therefore more deserving of a vaccine than others, she said, and it will be hard to determine for example, if a 50-year-old with asthma who works from home should be vaccinated over a taxi driver.

“What I always say is: if you don’t know anybody who’s gotten the virus, you’re probably one of the last to get the vaccine,” Grindrod said. “So that might mean you have a middle-class income and you don’t work in a factory or a grocery store.

“If you’re feeling like COVID is something that’s not really in your world, that’s probably a suggestion that you’re fairly low-risk for getting the virus in the first place.”

Grindrod says it’s important to remember that immunizing the majority of Canadians will take a long time.

The first stage alone could take months, she said, estimating that Canada will be able to vaccinate roughly three million people (in a country of 38 million) in the first quarter of 2021.

“If we’re all vaccinated by next Christmas, we will have done a great job,” she said.

READ MORE: Trump, 0 for 2 on tapping Canada’s health resources, may try again with COVID vaccine

Upshur agrees that getting to herd immunity will take time, but having multiple vaccine candidates reporting high efficacy rates should speed up that process — at least in theory.

“As exciting as it is to have these studies showing really good results, there’s still a lot more questions,” he said. “There’s a lot more that needs to be done before we can be sure that these vaccines are going to achieve the goals that we hope.”

Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirusvaccines

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

One staff member tested positive for COVID-19 at Maple Ridge Seniors Village. (Google)
Outbreak declared over at Maple Ridge Senior’s Village

This is the second COVID-19 outbreak for the long-term-care facility

The slide happened in November of 2018. (Special to The News)
Slippery slope has Albion community centre neighbours upset

City’s excavations caused landslide on neighbouring property

Cathy Barrington plays the drums and sings with various jazz and blues bands. But she is known in the school district as the singing secretary. (Special to The News)
Singing secretary at Maple Ridge elementary school leaves on a high note

Cathy Barrington, whose rendition of At Last went viral online, has retired

Lance Andre is the GM of the Maple Ridge Burrards WLA team. (The News files)
Maple Ridge Burrards plan to ‘go local’ in upcoming draft

WLA announces draft will be held online Feb. 11

Syringe is prepared with one of B.C.’s first vials of Pfizer vaccine to prevent COVID-19, Victoria, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 caseload stays steady with 465 more Tuesday

No new outbreaks in health care facilities, 12 more deaths

New Westminster TV production designer, Rick Whitfield, has designed an office in a box for British Columbians in need of a private workspace. (BC Box Office photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. man designs ‘box office’ solution for those working from home

‘A professionally designed workspace on your property, away from the distractions of home’

Chilliwack ER doctor Marc Greidanus is featured in a video, published Jan. 18, 2021, where he demonstrates and describes effectiveness of various styles of masks. (Youtube)
VIDEO: Emergency room doctor runs through pros and cons of various masks

‘We’ve been asked to wear a mask and it’s not that hard,’ Greidanus says.

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Pixabay photo)
VIDEO: Tip to Metro Vancouver transit police helps woman 4,000 km away in Ohio

Sgt. Clint Hampton says transit police were alerted to a YouTube video of the woman in mental distress

A woman types on her laptop in Miami in a Monday, Dec. 12, 2016, photo illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Wilfredo Lee
British Columbia government lax on cybersecurity practices, auditor reports

The audit did not highlight a specific threat, but it found breaches in cybersecurity are increasing globally

A child joins the Uke ‘n Play kickoff event at the Chilliwack Library on Oct. 1, 2016. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Events return, in virtual form, at Fraser Valley Regional Library

People can take part in ukulele jam, bullet journaling, reading groups and more

Cranbrook Food Bank coordinator Deanna Kemperman, Potluck Cafe Society executive director Naved Noorani and Sunshine Coast Community Services Society executive director Catherine Leach join B.C.’s new Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne on a video call about B.C. gaming grants, Jan. 19, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. gaming grants reorganized for COVID-19 priorities

Minister highlights community kitchens, food banks

(Pixabay photo)
‘Cocaine bananas’ arrive at Kelowna grocery stores after mix up from Colombia: RCMP

Kelowna RCMP recently concluded an international drug investigation after finding cocaine in local grocers’ banana shipments in 2019

Most Read