If the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine gains regulatory approval by Christmas, we can cheer the scientists for heroic work. But it will be the distribution decisions made by governments that will determine how quickly we can all exit Covid confinement. The U.K. has put itself in a strong position to access early vaccines, but its approach to prioritization and distribution needs careful thought.
What if vaccinating the elderly first isn’t the best way to minimize fatalities? A recently published (but not yet peer-reviewed) model from three academics at Khalifa University suggests priority should be accorded to groups with the highest number of daily in-person interactions, since that amplifies the vaccine’s effectiveness by reducing infections (and mortality) both among the vaccinated group and those they come into contact with. According to their model, proper prioritization can reduce total fatalities by up to 70%.