FILE – A Canadian flag sits on a members of Canadian forces that are leaving from CFB Trenton, in Trenton, Ont., on October 16, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg

FILE – A Canadian flag sits on a members of Canadian forces that are leaving from CFB Trenton, in Trenton, Ont., on October 16, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg

PM says military could help distribute COVID-19 vaccine, but Canada not there yet

The number of patients with severe illness due to COVID-19 is surging

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the military could play an integral part in rolling out COVID-19 vaccines across the country, though question marks remain around cost and distribution.

As case counts continue to climb at an alarming pace, the Canadian Armed Forces are already helping the Public Health Agency of Canada hammer out a support plan for vaccine rollout and set up a national operation centre to oversee broader delivery.

“Obviously, getting those vaccines from an airport tarmac or a port to Canadians right across the country is a significant logistical challenge,” Trudeau said Tuesday in Ottawa.

“That will involve multiple government agencies, possibly private contracts as well. It may well involve the Canadian Armed Forces.”

The remarks line up with those from Maj.-Gen. Trevor Cadieu, who heads the military’s strategic joint staff. He told the House of Commons national defence committee Monday the Forces “expect a potential request” for assistance with vaccine distribution.

Uncertainty remains around other logistical details.

“It’s a bit of a moving target,” Dr. Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer, said Tuesday of the number of doses bound for Canadian shores.

Shipments will arrive in batches, he said with the first landing “hopefully sometime early in the new year. That could lead to a majority of Canadians being vaccinated by the end of 2021, Njoo added, with the qualifier that “there will be adjustments.”

Storage and administration costs are other unknowns.

The Pfizer vaccine candidate, whose early results from the trial stage yielded a 90 per cent efficacy rate, needs “pretty sophisticated storage” at temperatures of -70 C, said Timothy Sly, professor emeritus at Ryerson University’s School of Occupational and Public Health.

“And that’s not available unless you go through a big industrial freezer,” he said.

“The logistics are going to be enormous. In one country we’re looking at millions (of doses); globally we’re looking at billions.”

The government is arranging contracts to expand refrigeration capacity and hold 33.5 million vaccine doses, Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said last week.

Anticipation around vaccines continues to grow as case counts tick upward and hospitalizations increase west of the Maritimes.

Total cases hit 306,467 across the country, according to numbers reported as of Tuesday afternoon, more than half of those cases having come in the past four months. Thedeath toll now stands at 11,086, according to figures from provincial health authorities.

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam highlighted “promising” early results from two vaccine trials by Pfizer and Moderna. But Trudeau stressed the country remains in an “incredibly serious” situation where Canadians will need to refocus their efforts until vaccines become widely available.

“We still have to get through the next month and the month after that before vaccines arrive,” he said.

READ MORE: B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 11 deaths, 717 new COVID cases

The number of patients with severe illness due to COVID-19 is surging, while those over 80 years old have the highest incidence rate, Tam said.

Public health authorities are warning of a steep rise in demand for hospital beds and intensive-care treatment in the days ahead based on recent record-breaking case numbers.

Asked about possible military-run field hospitals down the line, Tam said that “we do have those kinds of capacities, but it’s not limitless, and we should not get there.”

New cases exceeded 1,000 for the 12th consecutive day in Ontario, which reported 1,249 new cases Tuesday and 12 new deaths due to the illness.

Toronto alone saw 569 new cases — its highest ever daily tally — while Peel Region had 256.

Nunavut is the latest jurisdiction to announce strict new measures, as the territory prepares to enter a partial lockdown.

It logged 34 new cases Tuesday, more than doubling its tally overnight and less than two weeks after the first case was reported Nov. 6. The spike has prompted the government to close all schools, indoor dining and non-essential businesses for at least two weeks starting Wednesday.

Manitoba, which brought in similar measures last week, is upping its enforcement game, hiring a private security firm to help hand out fines for infractions such as gathering in groups of more than five people.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, called out some retailers for advertising in-person Black Friday sales for Nov. 27, deeming it “irresponsible.”

“We can’t accept this. We’re in code red in Winnipeg right now. We have people dying every day. We have health-care workers telling us that our hospitals are reaching their limits,” Roussin said, stressing alternatives such as curbside pickup or online purchase and delivery.

In Saskatchewan, the government is requiring residents to wear masks in all indoor public spaces, effective Thursday. The province announced Tuesday it is also suspending all visits to long-term care homes unless there are compassionate grounds and limiting private indoor gatherings to no more than five people.

British Columbia broke its daily record for new cases, reporting 717 and 11 deaths Tuesday, following a weekend that saw four provinces reach unprecedented highs in their daily case counts.

Quebec reported 982 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday and 24 more deaths attributed to the virus, prompting Premier François Legault to forecast that “red zone” restrictions will likely remain in most regions past the initial end date of Nov. 23. Health authorities said hospitalizations jumped by 47 compared with the prior day, to 638.

“Maybe next summer we could go back to a life that is just about normal,” Legault said in French.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Canadian Armed ForcesCoronavirusJustin Trudeau

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Annual spending on debt interest is closing in on $3 billion

The Town of Sylvan Lake has launched a new contest to attract a new business. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Sylvan Lake offering rent-free storefront space to lure new businesses

Winning business proposal will get a storefront space rent-free for a year

Alberta reported an additional 399 cases of COVID-19 Thursday, on 9,217 tests, for a test positivity rate of 4.3 per cent. (Image courtesy CDC)
Red Deer down to 562 active COVID-19 cases

8 new COVID-19 deaths, 399 additional COVID-19 cases

Mike Ammeter (Photo by Rebecca Hadfield)
Sylvan Lake man elected chair of Canadian Canola Growers Association

Mike Ammeter is a local farmer located near the Town of Sylvan Lake

Bookings for COVID-19 vaccines for people age 75 or older start Wednesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Updated: Delays for seniors booking for vaccine appointments

By 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, 4,500 seniors had booked their appointments

A helicopter flies past a mountain near McBride, B.C., on Saturday January 30, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Avalanche warning for backcountry users in North and South Rockies

Avalanche Canada is urging backcountry users to always check their regional avalanche forecasts

Supporters pray outside court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as a trial date was set for Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. He is charged with holding Sunday services in violation of Alberta’s COVID-19 rules and with breaking conditions of his bail release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

The court says it will reconvene with lawyers on March 5 for a case management plan by teleconference

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

Emily Keeping of Wetaskiwin, Alta., was last seen at 4:20 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin. Supplied/ Wetaskiwin RCMP.
UPDATE: Wetaskiwin RCMP seek assistance in locating missing 11-year-old

Emily Keeping was last seen on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin.

Alberta premier Jason Kenney, right and Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, provide details about Bill 13, the Alberta Senate Election Act., in Edmonton Alta, on Wednesday June 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Minister Doug Schweitzer talks on Enhanced COVID-19 Business Benefit

Provincial government rolling out new benefit this April to better help small businesses.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

Minister Rick Wilson poses with Katie at the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin, both wearing her Pink Shirt Day design. Facebook/ Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin.
Wetaskiwin Boys and Girls club Pink Shirt day design focuses on kindness

Katie with the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin created this year’s Pink Shirt Day design.

Most Read