Vaccine chief anticipating ‘constant flow of vaccines’ into Canada once approved

OTTAWA — Once vaccines are approved for use in Canada, the top military general leading the rollout is anticipating a “constant flow” of doses into the country.

“What we expect to see in January is constant flow of vaccines that come in, Pfizer and others as well, as they become available. So, they will be distributed, and then the next wave comes in… next delivery comes in for the second dose, in a prescribed timeframe,” said Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin who is the vice president of logistics and operations within the Public Health Agency of Canada.

In an interview on CTV’s Question Period, Fortin said that his plans are centred around the expectation of receiving doses “early in the new year.”

“All I can tell you at this time is that we expect to receive them in January, and we expect to receive them as soon as possible in that timeframe, and in successive amounts… multiple deliveries,” Fortin said.

“We’re planning on January onwards. It would not be prudent military planning on my part, on our part, to take us close to that date. So we’re really planning on being ready by mid-December,” he said.

That preparedness includes a “dry-run” for the distribution of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday, where essentially a test distribution factoring in all the delicacies of the doses are taken into account, and ensuring health care workers are comfortable with the administration process, without using any actual vials.

Because the Pfizer vaccine—expected to be the first one approved by Health Canada—requires ultra-cold storage around minus 80 degrees Celsius, it is going to be delivered directly by the pharmaceutical giant, first to at least 14 provincial “points of delivery” and then on to the places where it will be administered, as identified by the provinces.

“There are very peculiar requirements and we’re paying close attention to those requirements to avoid wastage,” said Fortin. This has included ordering, distributing, and installing ultra-cold freezers and plans to procure dry ice to help keep the doses stable.

“There are a number of steps, as you can imagine with the minus 80 vaccines, where they have to be thawed, they have to be decanted, they have to be mixed, and then there’s a certain period of time when in cold storage, they can only last so many days,” he said.

While each of the vaccines will have “unique characteristics,” the Pfizer doses are shaping up to prove the most logistically challenging.

“We’ll learn more as we go about those different vaccines in terms of handling them,” Fortin said.

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