On Dec. 10, Canada approved the Pfizer and BioNTech-developed coronavirus vaccine for use, making it the latest nation to clear the path for vaccination. It’s now become one of only a few countries that have approved a COVID vaccination.
The BBC reported that Canadian health officials determined the vaccine met its “stringent safety, efficacy, and quality requirements.” According to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada will receive close to 250,000 doses of the vaccine by the end of 2020, the first in an order totaling 20 million doses with the option to buy an additional 56 million.
Canada’s approval came a day after the U.K., which approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 2, began distributing the vaccine to healthcare workers and elderly people.
On Dec. 11, the FDA gave an emergency use authorization to the Pfizer vaccine, and on Dec. 14, Americans began receiving it.
The Washington Post noted that Russia has a vaccine ready for distribution, even though it hasn’t fully finished phase 3 clinical trials. Though vaccination has been made available to healthcare workers and teachers, there’s a good deal of concern about the safety of that vaccine along with government mistrust contributing to what the article labeled as vaccine skepticism.
China also has a vaccine available for use, and on Dec. 9, the New York Times reported the United Arab Emirates issued the first government approval of that vaccine. In its approval, it cited preliminary data showing 86% effectiveness, which could be enough to bring Chinese vaccines closer to widespread use.
The article noted the Emirates’ Ministry of Health and Prevention’s announcement “was the first official indicator of a Chinese vaccine’s potential to help stop the pandemic. If results from elsewhere show similar findings, the Chinese vaccines could offer a lifeline to developing countries that cannot afford vaccines from the United States that are likely to be more expensive and more difficult to transport.”
The approval and distribution of the vaccine to developing countries is a concern expected to continue into 2021, as the U.S. joins the list of countries distributing the coronavirus vaccine to larger segments of its population. CNN cited concerns from the People’s Vaccine Alliance that 67 nations could be woefully undervaccinated, with just one in 10 estimated to receive the vaccine by the end of 2021.
Five of the nations identified—Kenya, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Ukraine—have reported more than 1.5 million combined cases.
Bloomberg noted that 7.38 billion doses have been contracted for production worldwide. That’s enough to cover half the world’s population, yet they’re not likely to be distributed evenly, as “richer countries have hedged their bets with extensive supply deals, and some of the vaccines are inherently difficult to deliver to far-flung places.”
“The hoarding of vaccines actively undermines global efforts to ensure that everyone, everywhere can be protected from COVID-19,” Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International’s head of economic and social justice, said, via CNBC. “By buying up the vast majority of the world’s vaccine supply, rich countries are in breach of their human rights obligations.”
There is, however, a World Health Organization effort to get the vaccine distributed throughout the planet, with 172 countries participating or considering participating in the initiative.