Brief #84 – Health and Gender

Author Taylor J Smith

Brief Title: Effective COVID-19 Vaccines Emerge as the Pandemic Rolls On

The Policy

As the globe inches towards month ten of the coronavirus pandemic, promising vaccine advancements were announced last week. Companies Pfizer & BioNTech and Moderna released trial results deeming their vaccines to be 90%* and 94% effective, respectively. Both Companies have requested emergency FDA authorization in the US, with the hopes of distributing by the new year. The United Kingdom approved the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine earlier this week.

This news comes after the US reported record smashing 217,664 new cases, and over 100,000 of hospitalizations and 2,978 deaths on Thursday. With the continuous increase in cases and deaths, more than a quarter of a million people in the US have died from the disease, surpassing the White House’s projections. Experts like top infectious disease official, Dr. Anthony Fauci, conclude that the globe is reaching troubling waters and warned that January will be exceptionally terrible. To mitigate the current outlook, another lockdown in states is being considered. Just Thursday, Californian Governor Gavin Newsom announced a second round of regional stay-at-home orders for the state. This comes as intensive-care beds fill up across California, the lockdown will take effect in communities with intensive-care bed capacities below a 15% threshold. As cases rise from Thanksgiving holiday, it is expected that other states will follow suit.

This week, the Center for Disease Control issued new guidelines to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Most notably, specialists advise “universal” mask usage indoors, particularly for Americans, in addition to continued mask use in outdoor-public spaces. The CDC also recommended people avoid non-essential indoor spaces and postpone travel. 

*Pfizer later released data stating that their vaccine was in fact 94.5% effective, an increase from the initial 90%.

COVID-19 Internationally

Canada has extended the closure of its shared border with the US until at least December 21st. The border has been closed since March 18th and the closure has been renewed every month since.

UK Health Minister Matt Hancock announced on Wednesday that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been approved for use within the UK. Initial doses are already en route, with elderly people in care homes and care home staff placed at the top of the list for distribution. The UK government has already ordered 400 million doses of the vaccine, enough to vaccinate 20 million people, which is less than a third of the UK’s entire population of roughly 67 million.

Friday afternoon, Bahrain became the second country to approve the Pfizer vaccine for mass distribution. Officials granted emergency authorization for the vaccine, with little else known regarding roll-out or how many doses were purchased, but 800,000 doses are expected to be distributed next week.

Chinese officials have announced that China will have 600 million doses, produced by two Chinese manufacturers Sinopharm and Sinovac, by the end of 2020. These manufactures are also expected to create and distribute an additional 200 million doses for other nations.


Operation Warp Speed is seemingly meeting expectations, in creating a safe and effective vaccine in such a short period of time. However, as previously discussed, the haste of the operation, while necessary to save lives, has a very real potential of prompting hesitancy and uncertainty for widespread vaccinations.

With the Pfizer / BioNTech being approved for distribution in the United Kingdom, vaccinations are expected to start Tuesday. Some are asking why the UK was first to approve a vaccine and why the US is yet to approve any vaccine. According to UK officials, they simply have “the best medical regulators”, while American officials say the contrary, that the UK is not being as careful as the FDA is being. However, on Friday afternoon, US Vice President Pence announced he was very optimistic that a vaccine may be approved within two weeks’ time. It can be expected that there will be at least one vaccine approved for widespread distribution in multiple countries before the years end, creating some hope in a year of despair.

Here’s how some of the vaccines compare:

Producers Type Doses Needed Efficacy Storage Cost Per Dose
Oxford / AstraZeneca Viral Vector Two 62-90% Regular fridge temp  


Moderna RNA Two 95% -20C, up to 6 months $33
Pfizer / BioNTech RNA Two 95% -70C $20
Gamaleya (Sputnik V) Viral Vector Two 92% Regular fridge temp $10

*note not yet peer reviewed, numbers are preliminary phase three results.

Engagement Resources:

For concerns about COVID-19, please seek assistance with the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, or local health officials.

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Number of COVID-19 cases and deaths as of December 4, 2020 – Consult the CDC or Johns Hopkins for an update in numbers.

Nation Confirmed Cases Deaths
Globally 65,669,150 1,514,387
United States 14,282,494 277,958
India 9,571,559 139,188
Brazil 6,487,012 175,270
Russia 2,382,012 41,730
France 2,321,492 54,858
United Kingdom 1,694,790 60,714
Italy 1,688,939 58,852
Spain 1,684,647 46,252
Argentina 1,447,732 39,305
Colombia 1,343,322 37,305


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