The federal government says three million Canadians will be inoculated against COVID-19 in early 2021 as they coordinate with military officials to roll out vaccines.
In a press briefing Thursday morning, Deputy Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo said high-risk groups will be prioritized as vaccines become available.
“We need to be strategic about who gets vaccinated first,” he said.
“Although the initial supply of COVID-19 vaccines will be limited, I want to be clear that there will be enough vaccines for every Canadian.”
Pfizer’s vaccine has to be kept at ultra-low temperatures (as low as -80 C) and will be delivered directly from manufacturers to vaccination points identified by the provinces and territories.
Moderna’s vaccine, which has to be stored around -20 C, will be transported by a federally-contracted logistics service provider, from the manufacturer to points of delivery.
“Ultimately, each provincial and territorial government is responsible for deciding how to deploy COVID-19 vaccines,” said Dr. Njoo.
The health official went on to say that due to the logistical complexities, the government is working closely with the Canadian military to help with distribution.
Part of that preparation work has included purchasing freezer units and contracting services for the delivery of dry ice.
Major-General Dany Fortin, VP of Logistics and Operations for Public Health Canada, says that they are executing a “whole-of-nation” approach.
“Military expertise can be a real added value here, because it speaks to our core business at managing large, complex situations,” he said.
When pressed to provide further details on dates of vaccination given the approval process, Dr. Njoo said the government is expecting approvals soon.
Five other vaccine candidates in addition to Moderna and Pfizer are being considered. Dr. Njoo said that if any of the other vaccines get approved, that would add to the supply for Canadians.
However, he also said that authorities shouldn’t be “obsessed” with dates of delivery.
“What’s maybe more important at this point is not to focus on the dates per se of the actual delivery of the vaccines,” said Dr. Njoo.
“Making sure that we’re prepared, that we have the training exercises, that we have discussions with our counterparts in the provinces in territories, so that everyone’s on the same page,” should take precedence, according to him.