Ontario expects to begin receiving COVID-19 vaccines in early 2021, appoints distribution task force

As Premier Doug Ford says the Ontario government expects to begin receiving COVID-19 vaccines in early 2021, he has appointed Canada’s former Canadian Forces chief of defence staff to lead the province’s vaccination effort.

“When those doses are ready, we have to be ready as well,” Ford said.

“The easy part of this is to cut a cheque and order the vaccines … the toughest thing for all provinces is logistics and distribution.”

In Ford’s daily update on Monday, he announced the task force will advise the province’s development and implementation of an immunization program, including the “ethical, timely and effective distribution” of the COVID-19 vaccines in Ontario.

Read more: How Pfizer’s and Moderna’s mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines work

Last week, both Pfizer and Moderna released promising results from their COVID-19 vaccine trials. Pfizer said its vaccine is 95 per cent effective while Moderna said its vaccine is 94.5 per cent effective.

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“This campaign will be unparalleled,” Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Monday.

“The response will require coordination and touch all parts of the health system and beyond, and the participation of health providers.”

Elliott said planning for the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine program is well underway. She said those to get the vaccine during the first round is still being discussed — but she expects it to be the most vulnerable such as those in long-term care and frontline health care workers.

“And we have to vaccinate them not once, but twice, within 21 days,” she added.

Read more: Ontario developing plan for ‘fair and equitable’ COVID-19 vaccine distribution

“We have been working with local public health units and other provincial partners about priority populations and the rollout of the vaccine for these groups,” she said.

Gen. Rick Hillier, who also served as commander of the NATO-led forces during the War in Afghanistan, has been named chair of the province’s new task force to lead the vaccine rollout.

“We need military precision. We need the discipline that only a general can bring to this task. General Hillier is a Canadian hero,” Ford said.

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“This is going to be the largest logistical undertaking in a generation.”

According to the Ontario government, the task force will advise on:

  • Delivering, storing and distributing vaccines
  • Creating a phased vaccination program, prioritizing vulnerable populations followed by the general population
  • Monitoring vaccine consumption
  • Compiling and sharing data with the health care system and the public
  • Encourage vaccination through public education and community outreach

Meanwhile, Elliott said more members of the vaccine distribution task force will be named in the coming days.

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