The Ontario government will be looking to industry leaders to assist in the planning of the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines when they become available.
Health Minister Christine Elliott spoke Tuesday at a McKesson Canada warehouse in Brampton, one of the companies that has been preparing for the rollout of the vaccine since September.
Retired Gen. Rick Hillier will be leading the province's task force of the rollout of the vaccine and has stated that the province will have its plan in place by Dec. 31.
"We know that this is going to be the largest logistical undertaking that we've had in Ontario in a generation," said Elliott. "We have to get this vaccine to every corner of this province, it's no small feat and we know we can't do it alone. We need the help of businesses and people with the necessary expertise in logistics, technology, patient care and pharmaceuticals."
Ontario will be leveraging the expertise and resources from both the public and private sectors, who already play a role in supporting the storage, distribution, transportation, administration, tracking and monitoring of pharmaceuticals, including vaccines, in the province.
These partnerships will be essential in supporting the province's large-scale logistical efforts for Ontario's COVID-19 vaccination program led by Hillier.
Distribution channels will depend on the details provided by the federal government about the requirements for specific vaccines, such as ultra-cold storage, timing of delivery, and priority populations for vaccination.
Ontario will be ready by Dec. 31, 2020 to receive vaccines, with the first doses of vaccines expected to be made available in 2021.
The province will receive initial logistical support from vaccine manufacturers like Pfizer. The task force, in conjunction with scientists and ethics professionals, will be advising the government's prioritization of vaccine delivery sites and populations.
Elliott stressed that Ontario will have one of the best vaccine rollout plans in the country.
"As of yesterday we started speaking with vaccine manufacturers including AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen, Moderna, GSK and Sanofi, this is absolutely critical for planning," said Elliott.
"We're working with distribution experts like McKesson and Shoppers Drug Mart, who not only have the capacity for warehousing vaccines like this, but they also know how to get these vaccines to their networks including hospitals and other frontline care providers."
The planning and implementation of the immunization program will build on lessons learned from personal protective equipment logistics, including timely distribution of vaccines and ongoing communication and engagement with stakeholders to make sure all Ontarians are able to be immunized as doses become available.
It will also benefit from the province's previous experience and massive organization in the rapid opening of COVID-19 assessment centres.
"Through ongoing involvement of key industry partners and appointing a task force with diverse expertise, the Ontario government is ensuring that the province will be prepared to handle the largest vaccine rollout in a generation in a way that is timely, efficient and safe," said a news release from the province.
The Ministers’ COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force members will be announced in the coming days.