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

Friends have identified the man killed in Friday’s shooting in Metchosin as Shane Wilson. (Shane Wilson/Facebook)
West Shore RCMP continue to investigate shooting death in Metchosin

Man killed on Sooke Road Friday night identified by friends

Fire Chief Darren Hughes, right, pulls the old Firemans Park sign off ahead of the parks name change. The new sign for Firefighters Park is coming. (Oak Bay Fire Department Twitter)
Oak Bay changes the name of Fireman’s Park

New sign for Firefighter’s Park on the way

The WHL’s Victoria Royals will compete in a 24-game season starting March 26, <strong></strong>based out of a Kamloops and Kelowna B.C. division bubble (Kevin Light/Courtesy Victoria Royals)
‘Important to cherish every moment’: Victoria Royals not taking bubble season for granted

The Victoria WHL team’s coach and GM calls the season a ‘privilege,’ expects fierce rivalries

The Victoria Fire Department was able to contain a fire to one room after a bed placed directly against a heater ignited. (Black Press Media file photo)
Early morning Victoria balcony fire causes $20,000 in damages

Victoria Fire Department said nobody was injured in the fire on View Street

Postmark Group, an Edmonton-based development firm, bought two properties at 6641 and 6643 Sooke Rd. last year, and is reaching out to the community and local groups for feedback before they begin planning the designs for the development. (Photo contributed/Postmark Group)
Waterfront village development eyed for Sooke

Postmark Group development firm bought two properties at 6641 and 6643 Sooke Rd. last year

Const. Nancy Saggar, who has 11 years in policing, offers advice for other women who may pursue both policing and family. (Black Press Media file photo)
Pregnancy prompts sage advice from RCMP officer for women thinking about policing

West Shore constable with 11 years experience heads off on maternity leave

Montreal Canadiens right wing Paul Byron (41) fights for control of the puck with Vancouver Canucks defenceman Quinn Hughes (43) during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Monday, March 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Captain Clutch: Horvat nets shootout winner as Canucks edge Habs 2-1

Vancouver, Montreal tangle again on Wednesday

(BC SPCA)
Is it safe to give your dog some peanut butter? Not always, BC SPCA warns

Some commercial peanut butter ingredients can be harmful to dogs

Anyone with information is asked to call Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345 or contact Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-8477 or submitting a tip online at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com.
21-year-old motorbike rider dies after crash with ATV on Nanaimo back road

Incident happened Sunday afternoon near Boomerang Lake

Rising accident rates and payout costs have contributed to billion-dollar deficits at ICBC. (Comox Valley Record)
B.C. appealing decision keeping ICBC injury cases in court

David Eby vows to ‘clip wings’ of personal injury lawyers

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix provide a regular update on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, March 2, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 cases: 545 Saturday, 532 Sunday, 385 Monday

Focus on Prince Rupert, Lower Mainland large workplaces

A special committee has been appointed to look at reforming B.C.’s police act and is inviting the public to make submissions until April 30, 2021. (Black Press media file)
Have thoughts on B.C.’s review of the provincial Police Act?

Submissions will be accepted until April 30

Cottonwoods Care Home in Kelowna. (Google Maps)
New COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna care home includes fully vaccinated seniors: Henry

Two staff and 10 residents tested positive at Cottonwoods Care Centre

Most Read