Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance responds to a question during a news conference Friday, June 26, 2020 in Ottawa. Vance is ordering his troops to be ready to pick up COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. and Europe on short notice, and prepare to help distribute the doses while responding to floods and other emergencies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance responds to a question during a news conference Friday, June 26, 2020 in Ottawa. Vance is ordering his troops to be ready to pick up COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. and Europe on short notice, and prepare to help distribute the doses while responding to floods and other emergencies. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Defence chief says CAF will be ready after ordering COVID-19 vaccine prep last week

Vance’s order lays out a series of tasks for different parts of the military

The Canadian Armed Forces received formal orders last week to start planning for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, though the military’s top commander says preparations have been underway for longer — and that his force will be ready.

The planning directive issued last week by chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance lays out in detail for the first time how the military expects to help with vaccine distribution.

It notes the possibility of having to pick up COVID-19 vaccine doses from the United States and Europe on short notice, and outlines concerns the military will be asked to help with distribution while also responding to floods and other emergencies.

The emergence of the directive comes ahead of an expected fight Thursday between the federal Liberal government and the Opposition Conservatives, who will introduce a motion in the House of Commons demanding details of Ottawa’s vaccine rollout.

The Conservatives say Canadians need, and deserve, to know when they can expect to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and who can expect to receive the shots first. That includes how the government is setting up a distribution network.

“In the middle of this historic health crisis, this government should not be operating behind closed doors,” Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said Thursday.

“Before Christmas, Canadians deserve the hope, the hope that will come with a plan to roll out a vaccine to help us turn the corner on COVID-19 in the new year.”

While that distribution plan is being led by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces is expected to play a significant role — as outlined by Vance’s order on Nov. 27 establishing what has been called Operation Vector.

The directive was obtained by The Canadian Press and confirmed to be authentic by multiple sources, including the defence chief.

Though the directive was issued only last week, Vance said in an interview with The Canadian Press that Ottawa has been working for months on the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Those plans are now “well advanced,” he said.

“We are as well poised as any country,” he said. “And when the vaccines arrive, we’ll be able to support the federal-provincial-territorial rollout plans. … The actual logistics of rolling it out, we are in the same position that our allies are in.”

Vance’s order lays out a series of tasks for different parts of the military.

Those include flying doses “on short notice” from Spain, Germany, the U.S. and elsewhere “to designated points of distribution in Canada.” It also means providing personnel to help with distribution in remote, northern and coastal communities.

Military planners are also preparing to have troops work at vaccine-storage facilities, deliver freezers and other medical supplies to various regions — all while standing ready to also respond to other emergencies.

“Track 1 vaccines are likely to be delivered to Canadians at the height of the second wave of the pandemic and in the midst of the spring 2021 thaw — a period of heightened flooding risk for many communities,” Vance’s order reads.

READ MORE: Health Canada to make decision on Pfizer vaccine approval soon, feds say

It goes on to say that the “essential challenge” will be anticipating where to position troops and equipment “while preserving adequate capacity to surge in scale to respond to other unforeseen domestic emergencies.”

Vance said orders will start flowing to different parts of the military for Operation Vector in the coming weeks so individual troops know exactly what their specific jobs will be in a given situation.

Despite the advance planning, Vance said there remains a large number of unknowns, starting with the specific needs of individual provinces and territories when the actual delivery of a vaccine occurs and doses start flowing into communities.

“The details of the Armed Forces’ plan become firm when we understand what support will be required by the provinces and territories,” he said.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, a former NATO commander, to lead the Canadian military in its role co-ordinating vaccine distribution logistics.

O’Toole accused Trudeau of using Fortin as a prop, and said the fact the military has the same questions as MPs and Canadians about the vaccine rollout proves that the government needs to step up what information it is providing.

“The Trudeau Liberals, through their secrecies, through their lack of coherence and clarity, are not only setting up the military to fail, they’re setting up the provinces to fail,” he said.

Health Canada is in the final stages of reviewing vaccine candidates from pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna, with a decision expected by the end of the month. Federal officials expect vaccines to begin rolling out early next year.

Lee Berthiaume, 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 ForcesCoronavirusvaccines

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

Just Posted

A sign indicating a COVID-19 testing site is displayed inside a parking garage in West Nyack, N.Y., Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The site was only open to students and staff of Rockland County schools in an effort to test enough people to keep the schools open for in-person learning. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
4 more deaths, 54 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

This brings the total to 66 deaths in the region

Revelstoke City Council have denied an application for a development variance permit that would have allowed a cannabis store to be located at the strip mall that hosts Zalas. (Photo via Google Maps)
Revelstoke council stubs out cannabis store proposed at Zalas strip mall

The business was within 100 metres of an organization that hosts youths

The North Columbia Environemental Society has officially become the . (North Columbia Environmental Society)
NCES officially becoming new branch of Wildsight

Wildsight board directors voted in favour on Jan. 25

Castlegar Sculpturewalk 2020 – 10 Year Anniversary Sand Sculpture. (Submitted/CBT)
CBT arts and culture grant program now accepting applications

Apply through the Kootenay Columbia Cultural Alliance

(Pixabay)
‘Roadmap out of COVID-19’: Innovate BC’s program helping businesses recover

CEO Raghwa Gopal said the tech sector is here to help brick and mortar businesses

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

Vernon Fire Rescue Services responded to reports of a structure fire on Valleyview Place Jan. 26, 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Vernon Morning Star)
Fire snuffed in Vernon home

No visible smoke, flames from area of reported structure fire

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

Kevin Lee Barrett pleaded guilty to the aggravated assault of his mother Eleanor Holmes on Tuesday, Jan. 26. (File)
West Kelowna man who beat his mom could be sentenced up to 9 years

Kevin Barrett entered a surprise guilty plea to the lesser charge of aggravated assault on Tuesday morning

Interior Health reported two more COVID-19 deaths at Sunnybank Retirement Center in Oliver Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. (File photo)
COVID-19 claims lives of two more South Okanagan care home residents

Five residents of the Oliver care home have died since the outbreak was first declared

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Vernon now has an approved 13 cannabis shops in town. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Vernon, the ‘Pot capital of B.C.’ greenlights two new stores downtown

Two more shops, within 240 metres, approved, despite neighbouring businesses opposition

11 more cases of COVID-19 have been linked to a cluster on Big White Mountain. Pictured above is TELUS park at Big White Ski Resort, Jan. 26. (Big White Ski Resort)
11 more cases of COVID-19 linked to Big White cluster

This brings the total case count to 225, according to health authorities in a Tuesday update

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

Most Read