Feds will be ‘strategic’ about who’s vaccinated first amid limited early supplies

Three million Canadians will be vaccinated in the early goings, according to federal officials

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Ottawa’s plan for rolling out vaccines to Canadians requires “strategic” work to determine who will be dosed first.

Early distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is expected to begin in early 2021 but the country will only be able to vaccinate three million Canadians in the early goings, according to Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo.

“We need to be strategic about who gets vaccinated first. The federal government has sought the best scientific advice possible to identify the high-priority groups that will most benefit from an earlier vaccine, while reducing the spread of the virus,” he said during a media briefing Thursday (December 3) in Ottawa, referring to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI).

“Although the initial supply of COVID-19 vaccines will be limited, I want to be clear that there will be enough vaccine for every Canadian. Having said that, in a country as geographically large and diverse as ours, we are facing some logistical complexities.”

Those complexities include the need for ultra-cold storage for specific vaccines, reaching remote communities and co-ordinating between different levels of government.

The federal government had previously announced it’s establishing a National Operations Centre for vaccine distribution to be led by former Canadian NATO commander Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin.

“The team is working to ensure that all necessary equipment and material needed to distribute the vaccine is made available to all agencies [and] organizations,” Fortin said during the briefing.

“The National Ops Centre [will] co-ordinate between provinces, territories and other government departments, and will have a minute-to-minute capability to adjust to the regions and implement contingency plans to mitigate any disruption to the distribution.”

Ottawa has secured or is in the midst of securing 429 million vaccine doses from seven companies.

For the country of 38 million, it may look like overkill but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said it was a measure meant to mitigate potential logistical problems if some vaccines don’t work out.

The government will be ensuring that vaccines are distributed to 205 points of use across the country.

The Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) vaccine requires that it’s maintained in freezers at temperatures as low as -80C.

Njoo said those vaccines will be delivered directly by the manufacturer to the places of vaccination.

The competing Moderna Inc. (NYSE:MRNA) vaccine, which requires freezing of -20C, will be delivered from the manufacturer by a federally contracted logistics service provider to points of delivery within provinces and territories.

After already securing freezers for those vaccines, Fortin said dry runs of distribution will begin within the provinces on Monday, December 7.

“I like the idea of being ready before the Christmas timeframe so we’re certain to be ready when it [vaccines] come in January,” Fortin said.