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Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, Vice-President of Logistics and Operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, arrives for a technical briefing on the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines, in Ottawa, on Dec. 3, 2020.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Provincial governments have less than two weeks to prepare their first vaccine reception sites, putting pressure on provinces including Ontario and Quebec that have yet to release the full details of their plans.

On Thursday, senior military and public-health officials said they expect each province to have its first sites ready to receive vaccines on Dec. 14. The actual doses will likely only arrive in the new year. The federal government said the first vaccines will also be the most logistically complex to transport and store because they need to be kept at sub-zero temperatures.

“That is a date that is agreed to,” said Major-General Dany Fortin, who is leading the logistics effort at the newly created national operations centre within the Public Health Agency of Canada. He said to start, Canada will ensure that 14 sites across the country are in place within 11 days.

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Is my city going back into lockdown? A guide to COVID-19 restrictions across Canada

COVID-19 news: Updates and essential resources about the pandemic

As other Western countries have rolled out detailed vaccine plans with dates for when their citizens will get their shots, federal and provincial leaders have come under increased scrutiny for not releasing similar information to Canadians.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford insisted that his province will be ready, but the task force responsible for the vaccine planning will only be unveiled on Friday.

“As sure as I’m standing here we will be ready,” Mr. Ford said. “We’re ready, we’re organized, and as soon as they land on our soil they’ll be shipped out right across the province.”

CANADIAN VACCINE DISTRIBUTION MODELS BY REGION OR ORGANIZATION

In Canada, provinces and territories and some

federal departments are responsible for vaccine

distribution following one of three models.

The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines may follow

a similar pattern but in the initial stages the

federal government will play a more active

role because of the logistical challenges

associated with vaccines that require cold

or ultracold infrastructure.

ALTA, SASK., ONT., QUE. AND N.B.

MANUFACTURER

CENTRAL DEPOT

PHARMACY WHOLESALE DISTRIBUTORS AND SELF

DISTRIBUTING CHAINS

REGIONAL DEPOT

ADMINISTRATION

SITES AND

FIRST NATIONS

PROVIDERS

PHARMACIES

B.C., N.S. and N.L.

MANUFACTURER

CENTRAL DEPOT

REGIONAL DEPOTS

ADMINISTRATION SITES AND

FIRST NATIONS PROVIDERS

Man., PEI., Yukon, NWT, Nunavut, Department of National Defence and Correctional Service Canada

MANUFACTURER

CENTRAL OR

REGIONAL DEPOTS

ADMINISTRATION SITES AND

FIRST NATIONS PROVIDERS

MURAT yükselir / the globe and mail,

source: Public Heath Agency of Canada

CANADIAN VACCINE DISTRIBUTION MODELS BY REGION OR ORGANIZATION

In Canada, provinces and territories and some federal

departments are responsible for vaccine distribution

following one of three models. The rollout of COVID-19

vaccines may follow a similar pattern but in the initial

stages the federal government will play a more active

role because of the logistical challenges associated with

vaccines that require cold or ultracold infrastructure.

ALTA, SASK., ONT., QUE. AND N.B.

MANUFACTURER

CENTRAL DEPOT

PHARMACY WHOLESALE DISTRIBUTORS AND SELF

DISTRIBUTING CHAINS

REGIONAL DEPOTS

ADMINISTRATION

SITES AND

FIRST NATIONS

PROVIDERS

PHARMACIES

B.C., N.S. and N.L.

MANUFACTURER

CENTRAL DEPOT

REGIONAL DEPOTS

ADMINISTRATION SITES AND

FIRST NATIONS PROVIDERS

Man., PEI., Yukon, NWT, Nunavut, Department of National Defence and Correctional Service Canada

MANUFACTURER

CENTRAL OR

REGIONAL DEPOTS

ADMINISTRATION SITES AND

FIRST NATIONS PROVIDERS

MURAT yükselir / the globe and mail,

source:Public Heath Agency of Canada

CANADIAN VACCINE DISTRIBUTION MODELS

BY REGION OR ORGANIZATION

In Canada, provinces and territories and some federal departments are responsible for

vaccine distribution following one of three models. The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines

may follow a similar pattern but in the initial stages the federal government will play

a more active role because of the logistical challenges associated with vaccines

that require cold or ultracold infrastructure.

Alta, Sask., Ont., Que. and N.B.

B.C., N.S. and N.L.

Man., PEI., Yukon, NWT, Nunavut, Department of National Defence and Correctional Service Canada

MANUFACTURER

CENTRAL DEPOT

CENTRAL DEPOT

CENTRAL OR

REGIONAL DEPOTS

PHARMACY WHOLESALE DISTRIBUTORS AND SELF

DISTRIBUTING CHAINS

REGIONAL DEPOTS

REGIONAL DEPOTS

ADMINISTRATION

SITES AND

FIRST NATIONS

PROVIDERS

ADMINISTRATION

SITES AND

FIRST NATIONS

PROVIDERS

ADMINISTRATION

SITES AND

FIRST NATIONS

PROVIDERS

PHARMACIES

MURAT yükselir / the globe and mail, source: Public Heath Agency of Canada

A spokesperson for Quebec Premier François Legault was not aware of the Dec. 14 deadline and a spokesperson for the province’s Health Minister did not respond to a request for information on the province’s readiness for the early date.

The most detailed provincial plan so far has been released by Alberta, but Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, Dr. Howard Njoo, declined to comment on Premier Jason Kenney’s Wednesday statement that the first vaccine doses would arrive by Jan. 4.

“I can’t speak for Premier Kenney and what dates he’s using or how he’s getting information,” Dr. Njoo said. The federal government has not given a date for the first vaccine shipments and Dr. Njoo said its “more important” to focus on readiness.

However, premiers such as Mr. Ford, in Ontario, and Brian Pallister, in Manitoba, have said for them to be ready to administer the vaccines, they need more information on how many to plan for and when to expect them.

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Federal health officials expect enough vaccines for three million people will arrive between January and March. Shipments will ramp up from there and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week most Canadians will get their shots by September. British Columbia’s Health Officer Bonnie Henry echoed that timeline at a briefing in Victoria on Thursday.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who was named last week to lead the Canadian Armed Forces’ role in the vaccine distribution process, says the military has been working with the Public Health Agency of Canada to sort out the complex logistics involved in distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to Canadians, including how to ensure it is kept below -70 C at all times. The Canadian Press

Vaccine approvals, which were rife with uncertainty for much of 2020, are now in sight, with officials expecting a decision from Health Canada on Pfizer’s vaccine by mid-December, with one coming on Moderna after that. But the federal, provincial and territorial governments still face significant hurdles as they try to meet that target. Maj.-Gen. Fortin said two different frozen cold-storage chains need to be in place for the first vaccines, unpredictable winter conditions need to be managed, staff need to be trained, and the potential for cyber threats and natural disasters need to be accounted for.

He said officials held their first table-top exercise on Wednesday, with more than 150 representatives from the provinces, territories and eight federal departments and agencies. On Monday, he said they would do a dry-run with all provinces to ensure people get comfortable with the “very unique requirements of handling an ultracold temperature vaccine.”

Maj.-Gen. Fortin said the goal is to establish 205 sites across the country for vaccine distribution, but the federal government is starting with the 14 sites that will be dedicated to the Pfizer vaccine, which needs to be stored in freezers that can dip to -80 degrees.

A senior government source said B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec will each have two delivery sites for those vaccines and the other provinces will have one site each. The Globe and Mail is not disclosing the person’s name because they were not permitted to discuss the matter publicly. The source said plans for the three territories are still being finalized.

The public health agency said Pfizer will deliver its vaccines directly to points of delivery and points of administration across the country. The federal government though is responsible for distributing Moderna’s vaccines, which need to be stored in freezers that can hit -20.

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The provinces need to have protocols in place for the storage and distribution of those shots, but Ottawa is expecting to do much of the heavy lifting for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

At a virtual conference on Thursday, organized by the Canadian Public Health Association, Caroline Marshall, a senior policy analyst at the federal public health agency, gave a presentation that said the provinces and territories have “weak/no ultracold infrastructure of frozen cold chain capacity.”

“We’re looking at substantial federal intervention to support provinces, territories and federal jurisdictions and make sure that the products are delivered safely and we monitor the supply levels,” she told the conference.

Maj.-Gen. Fortin told reporters ordering and distribution of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines would be managed by the public health agency. Provinces and territories are already well versed in the storage, distribution and administration of other vaccines under development, which don’t need to be stored at sub-zero temperatures and are expected to be approved in time for delivery in the spring and summer. Health Canada is already reviewing applications from AstraZeneca and Janssen that fall into that category.

Supriya Sharma, a chief medical adviser at Health Canada, said the regulator is still awaiting “large chunks of information” from those two companies.

Ontario’s Premier described the rollout of the different vaccines, with different requirements, as a “logistical nightmare” but that hasn’t stopped the opposition parties from criticizing him for not yet providing more details.

Story continues below advertisement

Retired General Rick Hillier, who was appointed by Mr. Ford last month, will chair the vaccine distribution task force. He said Ontario does not have specific dates for when it will receive the vaccine shipments. “I’m not sure where Alberta got theirs,” he said.

Mr. Hillier said the Pfizer vaccine will be stored in hospitals that already have ultracold freezers. Asked whether Ontario will have a plan to get people to return for a second vaccine dose, he said yes. “If we don’t do that then it won’t work the way we want it to work,” he said.

With reports from Ian Bailey, Les Perreaux and James Keller

Canadian authorities are assessing COVID-19 vaccine candidates while trials are underway, speeding up any eventual approval for wide use. But science reporter Ivan Semeniuk says it’s likely high-risk people will be prioritized for receiving any vaccine first, with some possibly getting it as early as the first part of 2021. The Globe and Mail

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