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

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Ginette Matthews shows off some of the wares at The Local Refillery. Photo by Femke Overmaat
Pandemic meant going digital quickly for Courtenay’s Local Refillery

Owner Ginette Matthews says system keep business open in its early months

Comox Valley RCMP are looking for witnesses after the theft of a generator worth thousands of dollars. Photo supplied
Comox Valley RCMP asking public to watch for stolen generator

Vehicle may have been travelling on Highway 19

Tom Lennox finds peace when he runs in the Cumberland Forest. He hasn’t missed a day in nearly a year. Photo supplied
Cumberland runner nears 366 consecutive days on the trails

Cumberland resident Tom Lennox has been running a minimum of five kilometres… Continue reading

Courtenay’s Ace Brewing Company’s Jet Fuel IPA was chosen for second place in the annual Canadian Brewing Awards. Photo submitted
Courtenay brewery takes silver medal at Canadian Brewing Awards

“It’s huge - they are the biggest awards in Canada that you can get (in the brewing industry).”

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

Most Read