When the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines finally arrive in Canada, the country will need to grapple with a series of difficult questions that ethicists fear we haven’t spent enough time answering.
For example, which groups should get vaccinated after those most vulnerable? How long will it take for everyone to get their shot? And what happens if a person refuses to get vaccinated?
The clock is ticking to address those questions. Pfizer’s vaccine candidate, which is more than 90-per-cent effective according to the company’s preliminary results, could be approved for use in Canada before Christmas, according to Health Canada’s chief medical adviser.
Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s faculty of medicine, said the lack of clarity on a number of key issues involving Canada’s rollout is “beginning to make people very anxious.”
“Because we don’t really have a clear plan yet. Or if we do, it’s not available and transparent to the majority of Canadians,” Bowman told CTV News.
WHO GETS VACCINATED FIRST?
Federal health authorities have not released a comprehensive list of what order the vaccine will be delivered. For now, four key groups have been given priority to receive the vaccine, according to recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.
Those groups include those at risk of severe illness and death (such as the elderly or those with pre-existing conditions), essential workers most likely to transmit the disease (such as health-care workers), those at risk who live in communities that could suffer disproportionate consequences (such as isolated Indigenous communities), and other workers providing services that contribute to “the functioning of society.”
The committee purposefully left those definitions broad so that policy-makers tasked with plotting provincial roll-outs could define them as they see fit.
But after those groups, who comes next?
Research suggests racialized Canadians are at higher risk than white Canadians of having pre-existing conditions that could put them at risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19.
Employers whose businesses have been sidelined due to COVID-19 will also be among those most keen to get vaccinated. A recent Statistics Canada survey suggested that five per cent of businesses were actively considering bankruptcy or closure this fall. Anxieties are running highest among the arts, entertainment and hospitality industries, with nearly 30 per cent worried they’ll need to resort to layoffs, bankruptcy or closure within six months.
Whatever happens, there will inevitably be a period of time in 2021 when the limited supply of vaccines will create a society of haves and have-nots. Those months will be challenging, says Alison Thompson, an ethicist with the University of Toronto.
“This is very concerning because then we have a society that is really a two-tiered society that is based on some kind of biological grounds,” she said.
CAN YOU REFUSE THE VACCINE?
It’s impossible for anyone to be forced to take the COVID-19 vaccine once it’s available. But there could be real-life consequences to refusal.
“People that don’t want the vaccine, we all know, have an absolute right not to have it. I mean, it is their bodies without question,” Bowman said. “But that is an ethical concern because what will likely happen to people within that group is more and more opportunities may slowly be shut off to them.”
For instance, individuals who aren’t vaccinated may miss out on returning to the workplace or could face other restrictions involving group gatherings.
To make matters trickier, the vaccine will not be immediately available for certain groups. Pregnant women and children, who are not involved in clinical trials of the experimental vaccines, will be excluded from vaccination until more clinical trial data is available.
This exemption may be inconvenient, but it’s standard in these sorts of trials for safety reasons, Thompson said.
“Pregnant women are often excluded from clinical trials on many pharmaceutical products, including vaccines, because of the risk to the fetus that she carries and her own health,” she said.
The idea of “immunity passports” was floated early on in the pandemic as some governments expressed optimism that individuals who’d recovered from COVID-19 and tested positive for virus-fighting antibodies could be given greater freedoms to travel or return to work.
However, the World Health Organization dismissed the idea, saying there wasn’t enough evidence yet on the effectiveness or longevity of immunity through antibodies.
Vaccines may give new attention to the notion of “immunity passports” — a possibility that Thompson said needs to be handled thoughtfully.
“I think we need to think very carefully about how we use people’s immune status to grant them access to employment and travel and things like that,” she said.
WHAT HAPPENS IF SOMEONE SUFFERS SIDE EFFECTS?
All vaccines currently being study are tested for both their effectiveness and safety. Before reaching the general public, Health Canada needs to approve that the vaccine is safe enough for public use. Even so, there’s a chance that some individuals could suffer long-term side effects from a COVID-19 vaccine, Bowman said. It’s simply too early to know for certain.
“I have never heard of a vaccine that is 100-per-cent bulletproof safe, and I have no belief that this will be any different.”
However, he added: “It all sounds very good so far.”
In the event that someone suffers negative side effects of the vaccine, some advocates believe they should be financially compensated. At least 19 countries already have programs in place that compensate individuals injured by vaccines, but Canada does not, except for Quebec.
Thompson said it’s time for Canada to consider its own national compensation program.
“There are things we can be doing from the government side, to really help people view (vaccines) as more trustworthy,” she said, pointing to such a program.
CAN YOU CHOOSE WHICH VACCINE YOU WANT?
With several vaccine candidates in the race to be approved first, with Pfizer and Moderna leading the pack, it’s possible that Canada could have several different vaccines on the market in 2021. However, experts told CTVNews.ca last week that there is no health benefit to receiving more than one type of vaccine. As for personal choice, it’s unlikely that Canadians will have the option to choose which vaccine they want.
“I suspect that choice will not be an issue as the vaccines arrive in Canada. There will be a strategy to roll out vaccination, prioritizing the most vulnerable and front-line workers,” said Dr. Eleanor Fish, an immunology professor at the University of Toronto.
In the face of so many looming questions, Bowman said it’s important to “get this right.”
“So much of vaccine distribution is tied to ethics now,” he said. “It’s going to be a challenge.”
Global National: Jan. 27, 2021 | Pfizer seeks to stretch number of doses in COVID-19 vaccine – Global News
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- Global National: Jan. 27, 2021 | Pfizer seeks to stretch number of doses in COVID-19 vaccine Global News
- Pfizer presses Health Canada to increase doses of COVID-19 vaccine taken from each vial The Globe and Mail
- COVID-19 vaccine shortage forces provinces to rethink rollout CBC News: The National
- The knowns and unknowns of COVID-19 vaccines | TheHill The Hill
- U.S. Needs 500 Million Doses to Vaccinate Everyone 16 and Older Bloomberg
- View Full coverage on Google News
GameStop shares rally for another day, as total volume exceeds number of tradeable shares – The Globe and Mail
A battle between small investors mobilizing in online discussion groups and professional investors who traditionally dictate market moves is playing out among a number of formerly low-profile stocks, which are soaring for no discernable reason.
Amazingly, the small investors appear to be winning – so far.
In a previously unseen frenzy of trading that has attracted the attention of the White House and the Securities and Exchange Commission, the shares of video-game retailer GameStop Corp. surged to a fresh intraday high of US$380 on Wednesday, up as much 157 per cent during the day and marking an 1,800-per-cent increase over the past two weeks.
The gains comes as seemingly amateur investors mobilize in stock chatrooms to organize buying campaigns of stocks, not only to make quick profits but also in a bid to take on hedge funds and other money managers, some of whom are short-sellers who profit when share prices drop.
GameStop has emerged as the one of the most discussed and widely traded stocks in the world as individual investors increasingly show their collective power in the stock market, often with small bets, turning the tables on institutional investors that usually dominate stock trading. Other former sleepy stocks that largely traded without much fanfare are also emerging with sudden and mysterious bursts of their own.
BlackBerry Ltd. rose 32.7 per cent in New York, for a total gain of more than 160 per cent over the past five trading days. AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., a U.S.-based movie theatre owner beset by few releases and closed cinemas, rose 301 per cent on Wednesday.
Michael Burry of Scion Capital, an early investor in the company, on Tuesday called the GameStop rally “unnatural, insane, and dangerous,” in a tweet.
The White House press secretary said that Janet Yellen, the U.S. Treasury Secretary, is monitoring the situation. The SEC said in a statement that it is “aware of and actively monitoring the on-going market volatility in the options and equities markets,” according to MarketWatch.
The stock market is now valuing GameStop at US$24-billion, up from just US$1.4-billion two weeks ago.
Equally baffling is the number of GameStop shares trading hands: Volume exceeded 90 million shares on Wednesday, easily eclipsing the number of tradeable shares and implying that amateur investors are simply flipping the stock in great quantities in the hope of scoring easy gains.
“This is why the definition of an efficient market is really, really elusive. It’s slippery,” said Laurence Booth, CIT chair in structured finance at Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that [investors] are clever or fully informed. For whatever reason, they believe that the stock price is going up,” Mr. Booth said.
Some U.S. and Canadian online trading platforms offered by Robinhood, Charles Schwab, Royal Bank of Canada and Toronto Dominion Bank experienced brief outages owing to heavy trading activity. TD Ameritrade also halted some transactions.
GameStop’s remarkably swift rise to the world’s most heavily traded stock has little to do with any change in its fundamental performance. Earlier this month, the Texas-based company reported that total comparable store sales for the holiday period increased 4.8 per cent over the same nine-week period last year.
The company has suspended financial guidance owing to the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic. Analysts who cover the stock have an average price target (where they believe the shares will be trading within 12 months) of just US$11 – a fraction of Wednesday’s high point.
Instead, the frenetic activity appears to be driven by momentum-chasing investors congregating in online forums such as Reddit’s WallStreetBets, throwing dispersions on sophisticated Wall Street professionals, bragging about their success and proclaiming trades at ever-higher prices.
These chatroom investors appear particularly interested in stocks with a high level of interest among short-sellers, some of whom are complaining that they are being threatened and harassed.
Short-sellers borrow stocks and then sell them in anticipation that share prices will drop. If share prices rise, though, these investors face unlimited losses, forcing them to buy back the shares they had borrowed and sold – sending share prices even higher in what’s known as a short squeeze.
The pain among short-sellers is becoming plain to see. Melvin Capital, a hedge fund that recently received a US$3-billion capital infusion, closed out its short position in GameStop on Tuesday afternoon, according to CNBC.
Andrew Left of Citron Research, a short-seller who had previously argued that GameStop shares would fall from US$40 to US$20, said in a video post on Wednesday that he had covered his short sales at a 100-per-cent loss, even as he argued that GameStop shares will eventually drop sharply.
“But I have respect for the market,” Mr. Left said.
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Reddit community WallStreetBets squeezes short sellers – ABC News
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- Reddit community WallStreetBets squeezes short sellers ABC News
- 2 short sellers admit defeat, bail out at huge loss as GameStop share surge hits 1000% CBC.ca
- In battle over GameStop shares, two big players flinch CTV News
- Opinion: Why did BlackBerry’s stock triple despite absolutely nothing happening? Over-hyped Reddit posts The Globe and Mail
- Explainer: How retail traders squeezed Wall Street for bets against GameStop Reuters
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