Updated: December 15, 2020 3:15:13 PM
With the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of a coronavirus vaccine on Friday, the United States has become the third most developed Western country – after the United Kingdom and Canada – to approve such a blow and expect people to begin inoculating it in a few days.
But the three countries have very different health care systems. And they face various challenges in the race to bring the vaccine to millions of people.
Here are some similarities and contrasts.
Is it the same vaccine?
For now, yes.
The first vaccine authorized by US regulators and first approved by their British and Canadian counterparts is the one developed by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and a small company, BioNTech. It could get European Union approval in a few weeks.
But several others are close behind, especially one vaccine developed by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health and another by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. Half a dozen or more vaccines may be approved in the coming months.
So as 2021 unfolds, what photos (most vaccinations would require two injections, a few weeks apart) that one can vary vary by country, depending on the speed of regulatory approvals, what offers governments have made for to buy supplies and how much vaccines cost. Even within a country, there may be differences depending on how easy it is to distribute and use a particular vaccine.
Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna-NIH vaccines are of a new type, which have not been used so far; require ultra-cold storage and are more expensive than likely competitors. The Pfizer image must be kept especially cool, at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit, which most health units are not equipped to cope with.
How centralized is the launch?
In the UK, very. In the United States, no. In Canada, somewhere in between.
With a strong central government and a national health service covering all its people, the UK, which began administering the vaccine last week, is leading the process in London. The national government has chosen the 50 hospitals that will initially receive the vaccine and has made sure they are ready; decided how much each would receive; and developed rules that set out the order in which people would be eligible to receive it.
The Trump administration has delayed much of its decision-making to states. The federal government will distribute the vaccine to each state based on population, not need, but some states have complained that they do not know enough about the arrangements.
It will be up to the states to decide how to divide the doses between hospitals, clinics and, finally, pharmacies and medical offices, but at first, at least, the vaccine will go to hospitals with ultracold storage.
A committee that advises Centers for Disease Control and Prevention draws up a list of priorities, starting with health care workers. But that work is still ongoing, and the guidelines are lawless. States are expected to differ somewhat in their approach.
Like the United Kingdom, Canada has a universal health care system, but like the United States, it has a federal government. The Canadian health care system is decentralized, administered by provinces and territories.
For the distribution of vaccines, the central government intends to work through these regional governments. Ottawa will play an important role in leading the process. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram
How many people will receive it in the beginning?
That remains a bit murky.
Canada has ordered enough Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for all its people, enough for the UK for 30% and the United States for 15%.
But those numbers reflect deliveries that are expected to take months to complete, and Pfizer, like other companies, has hit obstacles in increasing production. In addition, all three countries have made advance purchases from other companies, so the pace of vaccine approval could significantly affect the speed of launch.
This speed will also be affected by the need for vaccination sites to be equipped with suitable freezers, firefighters and sufficient syringes and protective equipment.
Initial deliveries account for a small portion of pre-purchases – 800,000 doses in the UK and 249,000 this month in Canada.
US officials say they hope to have 40 million doses of the vaccine by the end of the month, which could be optimistic. That would be enough to inoculate 20 million people.
Rural areas where hospitals are not equipped to keep vaccines at the right temperatures or do not have staff to prepare them for injection will not receive Pfizer photos. This is more of an obstacle in the United States and Canada, huge countries with vast, sparsely populated regions, than in the UK, which is much more compact.
In Canada, where the military plays a central role in the distribution of vaccines, the government is sending shipments to all 10 provinces. The three northern territories will have to wait.
In the United States, FedEx and UPS will deliver vaccines from distribution centers to every part of the country. But the holiday season is the busiest time of the year for delivery services, which could slow things down.
How soon will most people get vaccines?
This is even more troubling.
The UK, Canada, the United States and the European Union have all followed similar strategies, pre-ordering a large number of doses – more than enough to inoculate everyone – from several manufacturers, covering their bets if some vaccines are not approved or some manufacturers have production breakdowns.
Compared to their population, the United States ordered far fewer doses than Canada or the United Kingdom, and last summer dropped an offer to increase Pfizer’s pre-order. Administration officials say the figures are misleading because the government has signed options to buy much more of the vaccine if it deems it necessary.
But in the face of intense global demand, it is unclear how quickly pharmaceutical companies will be able to fulfill the orders they have, let alone any additional orders.
And again, the speed of development, approval and production will affect how quickly consumers reach people. A country that places a higher bet on a vaccine could be much better than one that relies more on another.
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