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Which Age Group—Old or Young—Should Get the COVID-19 Vaccine First May Depend on Timing

A young female medical professional holds a vaccine.

By Chris Bauch, University of Waterloo; Madhur Anand, University of Guelph, and Peter C. Jentsch, University of Waterloo

COVID-19 vaccines are on the horizon. Lately, it seems like each week brings news of another clinical trial demonstrating vaccine efficacy. But if supplies are initially limited, decision-makers will need to make hard choices about who should get them first.

One approach is to prioritize groups who are most vulnerable to serious outcomes like hospitalization and death, such as the elderly. Another approach is to prioritize groups who are most responsible for spreading the infection. The question is which approach will work best in a given population.

Our team decided to study this question using our combined 30 years of experience in population modelling, including the 2003-04 SARS outbreaks and the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. We developed a mathematical model of COVID-19 transmission and vaccination in Ontario, published as a preprint (a manuscript yet to be checked for errors).

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Coronavirus Travel Advisory Canada: Here’s What Canadians Should Know

Wuhan seafood market closed after the New Coronavirus was detected there for the first time. (Jan. 20, 2020.)
Wuhan seafood market closed after the New Coronavirus was detected there for the first time. (Jan. 20, 2020.)

Since the first case of novel coronavirus was reported in China in late December 2019, this new strain of virus has spread around the globe. To date, there have been more than 23,000 confirmed infections in more than 25 countries, and the death toll is close to 500 people worldwide.

As of January 31, 2020, the Canadian government has confirmed four cases of the 2019 novel coronavirus in Canada, three cases in Ontario and one in British Columbia.

Canadians with upcoming travel plans, in the middle of a trip, as well as those who have recently returned from overseas, are advised to become informed on the current outbreak and take the necessary precautions to ensure their safety and that of those around them.

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