Report: NHL planning private purchase of COVID-19 vaccine

TORONTO, ON- AUGUST 12  - The Royal York Hotel and Scotiabank Arena are part of the NHL bubble. Toronto is in phase three of reopening along with other parts of Ontario as the province tries to slow the spread of COVID-19  in Toronto. August 12, 2020.        (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
The NHL is reportedly trying to facilitate a private purchase of the COVID-19 vaccine. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

NHL insider John Shannon reported on Thursday that the league is planning the private purchase of a COVID-19 vaccine for all parties involved in the upcoming 2021 season if a new deal is ratified.

Health Canada approved a COVID-19 vaccine from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer-BioNTech on Wednesday after scientists reviewed data from a two-month clinical trial, becoming the third country in the world to approve a vaccine, joining the United Kingdom and Bahrain.

The distribution of the vaccine in Canada would initially go to the most vulnerable populations in society. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization named the elderly, long-term care home residents and staff, front-line health workers and Indigenous communities as the groups that should receive the vaccine first and though the distribution is subject to provincial government discretion, they are widely expected to follow the recommendation, the CBC reported. 125,000 people are expected to be vaccinated during the first round of the process, and the vaccine could arrive as early as the middle of next week.

A 23-person expert panel advising the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) submitted their approval Thursday for the Pfizer vaccine, and the FDA is widely expected to approve the vaccine as early as Saturday. Seventeen of the experts were in favour, four were against, and two abstained, according to The New York Times. Health care workers and nursing home workers are expected to be among the first to receive the vaccine in the U.S.

The NHL, nor any other major North American sports league has commented on its plans, or lack thereof, to purchase the COVID-19 vaccine when available.

The NHL and NHLPA have yet to reach an agreement for the upcoming season, but a proposed 56-game schedule has been put into place, with a Jan. 13 target date for the start of the campaign. Although the season hasn’t been agreed upon, it was reported Wednesday that the NHL and its teams agreed to a restructuring of the four divisions, with a focus on the implementation of an All-Canadian division due to travel restrictions implemented by the Canadian federal government. The 2021 season cannot begin without the approval of the NHL’s board of governors, but the league and players’ association reportedly reached an agreement on an unchanged economic framework.

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