A look at what provinces, territories have said about COVID-19 vaccine plans
The federal government is laying plans for the procurement and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, inking contracts with seven potential manufacturers and saying six million doses could arrive in the country in the first quarter of 2021.
The most recent development from Ottawa came Nov. 27 when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tapped former NATO commander Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin to lead the national distribution effort.
But various provinces have started spelling out their plans as well. Here’s a look at what they’ve said so far:
The province’s chief medical officer of health says he will release a detailed plan for the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine once Ottawa shares more information.
Dr. Robert Strang said Friday there is no certainty yet about the availability of a vaccine, but expressed hopes an initial supply will trickle into Nova Scotia early in the new year.
Strang said a detailed provincial plan, to be released once the federal government has shared more specifics on its end, will include tight control of the supply and clear rules dictating who can be first in line for immunization.
He said he’s waiting for more federal guidance on issues ranging from priority groups to transportation and storage logistics.
The province will be ready to start rolling out its vaccine plan as of Jan. 1, say senior politicians.
Premier Francois Legault said Thursday that public health officials have already settled on the list of priority vaccine recipients, but did not release details.
Legault said the province is also working to put the necessary infrastructure in place to support a vaccine rollout. That includes obtaining fridges capable of maintaining the extremely low temperatures needed by one of the most promising potential vaccine options, currently in development through pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.
Quebec has also tasked assistant deputy health minister Jerome Gagnon, and former provincial public health director Dr. Richard Masse to oversee the province’s vaccination effort.
Premier Doug Ford is among those leaders calling on Ottawa to provide more clarity as officials scramble to develop a provincewide vaccination strategy.
Early speculation on the number of doses the province could receive was put to rest earlier this week when federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said such details were still in the works.
But Ford has forged ahead, naming former chief of national defence Gen. Rick Hillier to oversee the province’s vaccine rollout.
Hillier said on Friday he hopes to have a plan developed by year’s end, while Ford urged Ottawa to provide detailed information on potential vaccine delivery.
“We need a clear line of sight into the timelines of the shipments,” Ford said.
The province’s top medical official has said she expects to receive 680,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine early in the new year, a figure not yet confirmed by the federal government.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw has also said a number of hurdles and unknowns remain as the province works to devise its vaccination scheme.
“These (vaccine) numbers, of course, depend on many factors,” Hinshaw said on Nov. 18. “They depend on the final pieces of the trials that are underway going well. They depend on ensuring that the safety and the effectiveness of the early vaccines can be assured. All of those checks and balances must be cleared.”
On Friday, Hinshaw said the province is working with Ottawa to get vaccine, but it is “a bit of a moving target” on when vaccines might be available.
“But our goal is that whenever vaccine is available, we will be ready to start immunizing individuals on that highest priority list.”
Provincial health officials announced on Wednesday that a vaccine strategy for the province is already in the works.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s top doctor, said Dr. Ross Brown of Vancouver Coastal Health will join the group working to organize the logistics around the distribution of vaccines.
Henry said front-line workers as well as those in long-term care homes will likely have priority for vaccinations.
She cautioned that while the province has contracts with vaccine makers, there can be challenges with offshore manufacturing.
“It’s very much focused on who is most at risk and how do we protect them best,” Henry said. “There’s a lot of discussion that needs to happen.”
Henry said the province hopes to have vaccines in hand by January.
Premier Sandy Silver told the legislature on Wednesday that the territory has been in discussions with various levels of government on a vaccine rollout plan.
He said the goal will be to provide vaccines to elderly people and health-care providers.
Silver said rural and remote communities should also get priority status in northern regions, a fact he said he’s emphasized with federal authorities.
The premier said he has joined the other provincial and territorial leaders in pushing for a national strategy to distribute the vaccine.
“How confusing would it be for 13 different strategies right across the nation?” he said.
Silver said the Pfizer vaccine could cause logistical problems for remote communities because of its cold-storage requirements, but those issues may not apply to other vaccines under development.