Trudeau turns to military to help distribute COVID-19 vaccine


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today that the federal government has chosen a senior military commander to lead its COVID-19 vaccine distribution effort as the country braces for a massive vaccination campaign.Trudeau said Major General. Dany Fortin, the current Chief of Staff of the Canadian Joint Operations Command and former commander of the NATO mission in Iraq, will lead logistics and vaccination operations in a new branch of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

Beyond his many overseas services, Fortin was also involved in planning CAF missions to long-term care homes affected by a pandemic over the summer. The heartbreaking reports produced by soldiers after working in these homes prompted the federal government to draft new guidelines on elder care.

Trudeau said the government is in the process of creating a new military-backed center within PHAC – the National Operations Center – to help coordinate the deployment of millions of doses of vaccine over the coming months.

“Canada is well prepared for the large-scale vaccine deployment, but this will be the largest immunization in the country’s history. We have to reach out to anyone who wants a vaccine, no matter where they live, ”Trudeau said.

Trudeau said the armed forces will help plan and meet pressing challenges, such as cold storage requirements for promising Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The military will also help Ottawa get vaccinated in some Indigenous and rural communities where health care services are limited at best.

“It will be a major effort, but together Canada can and will do it,” Trudeau said.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford also chose a military leader – General Rick Hillier, Canada’s former senior soldier and Chief of the Defense Staff (CDS) – to lead similar vaccination efforts in Province.

While the federal government buys the drug, it will be up to the provinces and territories to get the vaccine in the arms of Canadians. Hillier said that, despite huge uncertainties about possible delivery times, he aims to have some sort of distribution structure in place by December 31.

Hillier said Fortin’s appointment was a welcome development as the general had the know-how to execute a complicated deployment.

“He’s the most incredible chef. I couldn’t congratulate him enough. I am absolutely delighted that he is commanding the task force. We are blessed as a nation to have it, ”said Hillier, praising Fortin’s efforts in the war in Afghanistan. .

The United States brought in a retired four-star general, General Gustave Perna, in May to lead Operation Warp Speed ​​- a project to develop a vaccine, manufacture it in bulk and release it. disseminate in communities.

The U.S. military, working with pharmaceutical distribution giant McKesson and shippers like FedEx, will distribute millions of doses of Pfizer vaccine to all 50 U.S. states the day after this product obtains the necessary approvals from the Food and Drug Administration ( FDA) from the United States, which is scheduled to occur on December 10.

20 million Americans are expected to be vaccinated in December, with 30 million more Americans being vaccinated each month following.

Majority of Canadians will be vaccinated by September: Trudeau

The government has been criticized by the opposition, provincial leaders and some public health experts for providing few details on its plans for a vaccine once Health Canada gives the green light.

The government has also had to contend with the fact that Canada seems to be lagging behind other developed countries in terms of vaccine delivery times.

When asked why he hadn’t appointed a military liaison earlier, when the United States had one in place for months, Trudeau said his government was doing “its best” and that work on the distribution plan had been going on for some time.

“I can understand the rush with which people want to know when this is over, when we are going to get vaccinated. What we can say is that we are going to work extremely hard to deliver as quickly and as safely as possible, ”Trudeau said. “We’re on it and we deliver. ”

Trudeau said Canada is on track to vaccinate almost everyone who wants to be vaccinated by September 2021.

WATCH: Trudeau asked when Canadians will receive COVID-19 vaccine

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Tom Parry of the CBC on Friday. 2:05

Health Canada is expected to give approvals for the Pfizer product at about the same time as the United States. “We are on the right track to make decisions under similar timelines,” said Dr. Supriya Sharma, Chief Medical Advisor at Health Canada.

Sharma said her department has been reviewing clinical trial data on an ongoing basis since October 9. The continuous review process – a policy change implemented due to the urgency of this pandemic – allows drugmakers to bypass the long delays they normally face when launching a vaccine.

Canada is largely indebted to Pfizer’s manufacturing plants in the United States and abroad for its vaccine supply, as our country does not have the capacity to produce it. The vaccine uses revolutionary messenger RNA, or mRNA, technology, which essentially directs the body’s cells to make proteins to prevent or fight disease.

The federal government did not secure national manufacturing rights for the AstraZeneca product, which was co-developed by scientists at the University of Oxford. This vaccine, which uses a more traditional vaccination platform, is easier to produce.

Other countries – including Western countries like Germany, France and Italy and middle-income countries like Mexico and Argentina – will produce the vaccine nationally.

Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand, a former professor of contract law, said her department is in daily contact with Pfizer and the six other pharmaceutical companies with which the government has signed agreements for vaccines.

“I will personally ensure that we have vaccines in place in Canada once Health Canada gives regulatory approval,” Anand told reporters during a briefing on COVID-19.

“Once we have the approvals from Health Canada, deliveries will begin as soon as possible,” she said.

Arianne Reza, assistant deputy minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada, said she expects vaccines to be available in “the first quarter of 2021”.

“The minute regulatory approval is obtained, they will be ready to move fairly quickly with initial supply and shipments,” she said.

If all goes well, and if the US pharmaceutical giants are able to meet delivery deadlines, PHAC has said up to six million doses could be deployed in the first three months of 2021. Each patient will have need two doses of Pfizer vaccine.

In total, Canada has been granted options for 414 million doses of the various vaccines under development.


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