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COVID-19 puts pressure health-care system as armed forces plan vaccine rollout

People line up at a COVID-19 assessment centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Scarborough, Ont., on Wednesday, December 2, 2020.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
December 03, 2020 - 10:48 AM

The Canadian Armed Forces is preparing for the most ambitious and complex vaccine rollout in the country’s history as many provinces report increasing hospitalizations and added pressure on the health-care system.

The federal government expects several vaccines will be approved early next year but supply will initially be limited to about three million people. Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said Thursday they are targeting priority groups that will most benefit from an earlier vaccine while reducing the spread of the virus.

“In a country as geographically large and diverse as ours we are facing some logistical complexities,” he said, including reaching remote communities and co-ordinating between various levels of government.

Pfizer's vaccine is expected to start being delivered first in January, and will be sent by the manufacturer to pre-determined points in each province.

READ MORE: Liberals' failure to be transparent on vaccines fuelling anxiety: O'Toole

The Canadian Armed Forces received formal orders last week to start planning for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. A planning directive for Operation Vector includes preparations on vaccine-storage facilities and notes the possibility of flying doses on short notice from Spain, Germany and the U.S.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading the country's distribution effort, said the speed, scope and scale of this plan makes it unique in the country’s history. The Canadian Armed Forces are already holding simulation tests to ensure critical capability gaps are filled and any risks are mitigated.

Many health officials in regions across the country have reported increasing pressures on hospitals and front-line workers during the second wave of the pandemic as they prepare for the possibility of a vaccine to relieve pressure in coming months.

Ontario reported 666 people are hospitalized Thursday with COVID-19, with 195 in intensive care.

Hospitalizations declined slightly in Quebec to 737, but the number of people in the intensive care unit remained unchanged at 99.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases nationally is 6,044.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 3, 2020.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2020
The Canadian Press

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