Defence chief says CAF might be prepared after ordering COVID-19 vaccine prep final week

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Revealed Thursday, December three, 2020 5:17AM EST

OTTAWA — The Canadian Armed Forces obtained formal orders final week to begin planning for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, although the navy’s high commander says preparations have been underway for longer — and that his power might be prepared.

The order is contained in a planning directive issued final week by chief of the defence workers Gen. Jonathan Vance. It lays out intimately for the primary time how the navy expects to assist with vaccine distribution.

It notes the potential for having to choose up COVID-19 vaccine doses from the US and Europe on quick discover, and descriptions considerations the navy might be requested to assist distribute the vaccine whereas additionally responding to floods and different emergencies.

The emergence of the directive comes forward of an anticipated battle Thursday between the federal Liberal authorities and the Opposition Conservatives, who’re set to introduce a movement within the Home of Commons demanding particulars of Ottawa’s vaccine rollout.

The Conservatives say Canadians want, and deserve, to know after they can anticipate to be vaccinated in opposition to COVID-19, and who can anticipate to obtain the photographs first. That features how the federal government is organising a distribution community.

Whereas that distribution plan is being led by the Public Well being Company of Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces is predicted to play a major function — as outlined by Vance’s order on Nov. 27 establishing what has been known as Operation Vector.

The directive was obtained by The Canadian Press and confirmed to be genuine by a number of sources, together with the defence chief.

Canada is not alone in turning to its navy for assist with vaccines. The U.S. navy has been credited with having laid the groundwork in current months for making a distribution community that may get vaccines to Individuals shortly as soon as they’re prepared.

Regardless of having issued his directive on Operation Vector solely final week, Vance stated in an interview with The Canadian Press that Ottawa has been working for months on planning the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. These plans at the moment are “properly superior,” he stated, including Canada’s navy might be prepared when the primary cargo of doses are prepared.

“We’re as properly poised as any nation,” he stated. “And when the vaccines arrive, we’ll be capable of assist the federal-provincial-territorial rollout plans. … The precise logistics of rolling it out, we’re in the identical place that our allies are in.”

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan additionally described the work round Operation Vector as “ongoing planning,” saying in an announcement that it’ll complement what “the Canadian Armed Forces has completed and continues to do to assist Canadians by means of COVID-19.”

Vance’s order lays out a sequence of duties for various elements of the navy, all aimed toward guaranteeing the Forces are prepared to reply when vaccines turn out to be obtainable to Canada.

These embody flying doses “on quick discover” from Spain, Germany, the U.S. and elsewhere “to designated factors of distribution in Canada.” It additionally means offering personnel to assist with distribution in distant, northern and coastal communities.

Army planners are additionally getting ready to have troops work at vaccine-storage amenities, ship freezers and different medical provides to numerous areas — all whereas standing able to additionally reply to different emergencies.

“Monitor 1 vaccines are prone to be delivered to Canadians on the top of the second wave of the pandemic and within the midst of the spring 2021 thaw — a interval of heightened flooding danger for a lot of communities,” Vance’s order reads.

It goes on to say that the “important problem” might be anticipating the place to place troops and tools “whereas preserving sufficient capability to surge in scale to answer different unexpected home emergencies.”

Within the interview, Vance acknowledged the potential problem posed by the spring flood season coinciding with a possible surge in COVID-19 instances and efforts to get vaccines to Canadians most susceptible to the sickness.

To that finish, the defence chief stated orders will begin flowing to totally different elements of the navy for Operation Vector within the coming weeks so particular person troops know precisely what their particular jobs might be in a given scenario.

Regardless of the advance planning, Vance stated there stays numerous unknowns, beginning with the particular wants of particular person provinces and territories when the precise supply of a vaccine happens and doses begin flowing into communities.

“The main points of the Armed Forces’ plan turn out to be agency once we perceive what assist might be required by the provinces and territories,” he stated.

Final week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, a former NATO commander, to steer the Canadian navy in its function co-ordinating logistics for distributing a COVID-19 vaccine.

Well being Canada is within the remaining phases of reviewing vaccine candidates from pharmaceutical corporations Pfizer and Moderna, with a call anticipated by the top of the month. Federal officers anticipate vaccines to start rolling out early subsequent yr.

This report by The Canadian Press was first revealed Dec. three, 2020.