Feds leaving it to provinces to request military help for vaccine rollout

Military already playing a role in rollout but it will be up to jurisdictions to request further assistance

CDH-146 Griffon Helicopter | Getty Images/madsci

The federal government has no immediate plans to deploy the Canadian Armed Forces to assist provinces with the initial rollout of mass vaccinations in the coming weeks and months.

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc was questioned Tuesday (February 16) on the prospect of tapping more military personnel for help after NDP leader Jagmeet Singh floated the idea earlier in the day.

LeBlanc told reporters it will be up to provinces and territories to request additional assistance from the federal government for military involvement with the vaccine rollout effort.

But the federal government’s current stance doesn’t rule out any military presence in mass distribution across Canada.

“The military, as you know, have been available and assisting in some northern and remote communities, in Indigenous communities, and we're working on plans ourselves to ensure that the Indigenous communities are able to effectively and safely receive the vaccines in a timely way and I think it's only natural to assume the military can play a very effective supporting role in that effort as well,” LeBlanc said.

The federal government has already assigned Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin to lead logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) as part of efforts to distribute the vaccine across the country.

LeBlanc said Fortin and PHAC believe the provinces and territories already have the capacity to ramp up vaccinations in the coming weeks as more doses are delivered to Canada.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said at the same media briefing she does not anticipate a lack of personnel — military or civilian — hampering the vaccination campaign.

“The human resource aspect is not the biggest concern,” she said.

“We have many pharmacists, many doctors, other health professionals [who have] retired. They are all volunteering and on top of [that], the Red Cross.”

Meanwhile, Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand confirmed that Canada has not yet brought in any shipments of the AstraZeneca plc vaccine.

While the federal government has a contract for 20 million doses, Canadian regulators have not approved the vaccine.

Anand said discussions are ongoing with the manufacturer about procuring those 20 million doses once Health Canada has granted approval.

torton@biv.com

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