Former NATO commander Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin will be leading Canada’s vaccine distribution efforts in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced.
As first reported by CTV News ahead of Trudeau’s Rideau Cottage address on Friday, Fortin will be in charge of overseeing what is set to be a massive logistics-heavy operation.
There are already Canadian Armed Forces military logistics teams working with the Public Health Agency of Canada on planning for the rollout of vaccines to millions of Canadians in the coming months.
Known as the National Operations Centre, Fortin will head up the logistics and operations within the centre.
“This will be the biggest immunization in the history of the country,” Trudeau said. “We must reach everyone who wants a vaccine, no matter where they live.”
Fortin most recently served as the Chief of Staff for the Canadian Joint Operations Command, but has also served as the commander of NATO’s Iraq mission.
“The Canadian Armed Forces will assist on planning, including to meet challenges like cold storage requirements, data-sharing, and reaching Indigenous and rural communities,” Trudeau said.
This follows news from Health Canada’s chief medical adviser that the first COVID-19 vaccine approval could happen before Christmas, in line with expected approvals in the U.S. and Europe.
“We are expecting to make a final decision on the vaccines around the same time,” Dr. Supriya Sharma told reporters Thursday during the first of what will be weekly public briefings on the status of procurement and rollout plans. “And then we’re going to have to figure out all of those shipments.”
That’s where the military is expected to play a role.
Further complicating the tall task of distributing millions of vials across the country, a number of the vaccine candidates being tested—including the Pfizer vaccine— require two doses and must be stored at very cold temperatures.
The government has begun procuring freezers that are able to stay cold enough to keep the vaccine supply stable, and the procurement process is underway for a contract tender to ship, fly, and drive doses to all regions of the country.
“We’re in this together, and the more we work as a team, the better we’ll all do,” said the prime minister on Friday.
With files from CTV News’ Michel Boyer and Solarina Ho