First COVID-19 vaccine could be delivered to distribution points as early as late December, says Fortin

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Federal officials explained today how they plan to roll out millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks, as Ottawa launches its mass inoculation campaign.

The initial supply of doses will be limited – only three million Canadians are expected to receive an injection in the first three months of 2021. Millions of additional doses are expected to arrive as the supply chain stabilizes.

One of the main challenges facing the vaccination effort is the distribution of vaccines that must be stored at very low temperatures – far below those that a standard commercial refrigerator can offer.

The Pfizer product, which is expected to get the green light from Health Canada as early as this month, must be kept at around -80 degrees Celsius to remain stable. Moderna, another vaccine that uses revolutionary messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, should be stored at -20 degrees Celsius.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, former NATO commander in Iraq, is leading logistics and vaccination operations at a new National Operations Center at the Public Health Agency of Canada. As the country faces unprecedented “logistical complexities”, he said, the military and its partners will be ready to deploy vaccines as soon as they are approved in Canada.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, Commander of Canada’s Military Response to a Pandemic. (Radio Canada)

He said the national operations center is not waiting for approval from Health Canada to begin preparations. The Pfizer product will be delivered by this company directly to provincial and territorial distribution points at the end of the month.

The federal government has already secured the required cold room for this product. All provinces have indicated where Pfizer-specific refrigerators should be placed and 14 distribution points across the country will be ready to receive the vaccine starting Dec. 14, Fortin said.

Eventually, there will be 205 “trouble spots” across the country where healthcare professionals can administer the vaccine, the general said. It will be up to the provinces and territories to determine where and when Canadians will be vaccinated.

Fortin said at least one “dry trial” has been run so far, and more are planned in the coming days, to make sure things run smoothly once this vaccine hits. our shores from manufacturing centers in the United States and abroad.

The general said his team was in daily contact with Pfizer and the company was “comfortable” with the plan developed by Canada. Pfizer has said it will not ship a product to a country that is not ready to receive such a temperature sensitive vaccine.

Prepare for the worst

He said he is actively planning several worst-case scenarios, such as bad weather, cyber attacks and fires in distribution centers.

“We have a nationwide approach,” said Fortin. “The size, scope and magnitude of this problem are unprecedented and several factors are at play,” he said.

The Moderna vaccine will be imported into Canada by the federal government, largely through private shipping companies. Ottawa will in turn share the proceeds among the provinces and territories.

The government is finalizing “end-to-end” contracts with logistics companies – the companies that will transport Moderna vaccines to centers where Canadians can get vaccinated.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole is pushing the federal government for more details on its vaccine deployment plan. (Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press)

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and her party’s health critic Michelle Rempel Garner held a press conference this morning to discuss an opposition motion that will ask the government to release its plan by December 16.

O’Toole accused the government of failing to provide Canadians with a plan and schedule for vaccine distribution.

“Without a concrete schedule for vaccines, companies will not have the confidence to reinvest in their operations and rehire Canadians who were laid off during the pandemic,” he said.

“Without a timeline or reliable details, the provinces have the impossible task of building complex supply chains without delay.

The motion asks for a status update on:

  • How each type of vaccine will be safely delivered, stored and distributed to Canadians.
  • The date when each type of vaccine will be deployed for the first time in Canada and the expected vaccination rate per month.
  • Any planned federal guidance regarding vaccine deployment by priority group, such as frontline health workers and the elderly.
  • The plan to distribute the vaccine to Aboriginal communities, members of the Canadian Armed Forces and veterans.

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