Trends to watch in 2021 –
Vaccines: key issues in Canada
Multiple issues arise as Canada now has a viable COVID-19 vaccine, from its potential effects on international relations to province-specific distribution guidelines. Going forward, we anticipate significant interest in:
Distributing the vaccine to Canadians will be a herculean task. It will require rigorous, large-scale transport and storage protocols, including the need for many COVID-19 vaccines to be maintained in sub-zero temperatures. The shipping challenges combined with the need to deliver two doses to each recipient approximately two weeks apart will put Canada’s distribution infrastructure in uncharted territory.
While this initiative will be led by the federal and provincial governments, it will also involve Canada’s network of hospitals and highly skilled private-sector distributors. We are monitoring and advising clients with planning and risk management as the details are developed and implemented to get the vaccine to those who need it most. Based on the rigorous requirements and desire to return to pre-pandemic life, we anticipate labour and employment issues, implications for schools, insurance and coverage questions, and a rise in disputes.
Implications for the workplace
Workplace issues have been central throughout the pandemic. While some workplaces have become almost entirely remote, others must manage the health and safety challenges associated with coming to work. We anticipate that these issues and other new challenges will continue once the vaccine becomes widely available. Questions include determining which types of workers will qualify for priority receipt of the vaccine (certain front-line workers have been identified among the National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s preliminary recommendations for priority recipients); to what extent an employer can mandate, monitor, and manage employee vaccination status; and how various types of workplaces will develop return-to-work protocols in the post-vaccine era.
Implications for schools
School safety has been a key issue throughout the pandemic. Once the vaccine is widely available, the key question will be whether it is added to the list of mandatory immunizations for school-aged children and attendant exemption policies. Schools will also have to grapple with fair and equitable processes given that not everyone may have prompt access to a vaccine.