The Ontario government is calling on the federal government to immediately lay out its plan to allocate COVID-19 vaccines across the country as the province continues to prepare for the distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccine doses, which will be the largest vaccine rollout in a generation.
This federal plan will inform the work of the new ministers' COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force being led by General (retired) Rick Hillier.
With recent reports that COVID-19 vaccines will come later to Canada than other countries, the federal government must put forward a comprehensive plan for a national immunization program, including the ongoing review, procurement, warehousing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to Ontario and the other provinces and territories, the province said.
While Ontario is doing everything it can to prepare, the government will continue to work closely with the federal government and local partners to ensure the province is ready when the vaccine is made available.
"With other jurisdictions ready to roll out vaccines as early as next month, Ontario and Canada should not be last in line to receive this vaccine," said Premier Doug Ford, in a press release put out last week.
"I'm calling on the Prime Minister today to provide certainty that the contracts we've signed are rock solid and that Ottawa will provide detailed information to support provincial planning, including when, how much, and what type of each vaccine we're getting. The sooner we get a vaccine, the sooner we can offer that added protection for our frontline staff and most vulnerable, take pressure off of our hospitals, and begin to return life back to normal."
The task force, chaired by retired General Rick Hillier, will support the government in the planning and execution of this historic logistical undertaking. This task includes ensuring the province is ready to receive, store, and administer the vaccines in an ethical, timely and effective manner as soon as they are available.
"It was my duty to agree to the Premier's request to lead the task force in this war to defeat COVID-19," said Hillier.
"We will be ready as of Dec. 31, 2020 to receive the vaccine, no matter when it arrives, and to ensure the people of Ontario are vaccinated. Our task force team is integrated, professional, and committed."
The COVID-19 vaccines require special handling and storage, including in some cases the need for ultra-cold or freezer units to keep millions of doses at the right temperature.
The logistics will have to be well planned for people to get the vaccines in a prompt, equitable fashion. For those reasons, Ontario needs the federal government to share the volume and timing for when the province will receive its allocations.
"Our government is building the capacity to undertake this monumental task, and I know that with General Hillier at the helm we are in good hands as we move forward with Ontario's COVID-19 immunization program," said Health Minister Christine Elliott.
"This is a critical stage in our fight against COVID-19 that will require us to work together, as a province and as a country, to face the challenges ahead of us to protect the health and well-being of each and every Ontarian."
As part of its initial work, the task force will be guiding the development of an ethical framework, develop a logistical roadmap, and identify the key risks and mitigation strategies for the rollout of the program. Additional members will be announced in the coming days.