Military response to COVID-19

Faced with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) spread, the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) took unprecedented measures to protect the health and well-being of its members, prevent the spread of this disease, and maintain essential military operations including contributing to the national response to the pandemic.

Vaccines against COVID-19 are widely available, and there is currently less focus on other preventive health measures. We continue to monitor the public health risk to CAF members and operations based on the best available evidence as the COVID-19 situation evolves.

For the latest information and resources for the Defence Team related to COVID-19 visit Defence Team – COVID-19.

How the military is responding to COVID-19

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) are ready to respond wherever and whenever the government needs us to protect Canadians and minimize the impacts of the pandemic.

In the first months of the pandemic CAF personnel:

  • deployed to long-term care facilities in Quebec and Ontario,
  • directly supported northern and remote communities,
  • assisted the Public Health Agency of Canada in managing and distributing personal protective equipment, and
  • helped Public Health Ontario with contact-tracing efforts.

Through Operations LASER and VECTOR, the CAF continues to stand ready to support the Government of Canada in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic situation and in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations. The focus going forward will be on General Duty and Humanitarian Assistance type tasks that can be resourced through capabilities such as Immediate Reaction Units (IRUs) and elements of Canadian Ranger Patrol Groups as requested through provincial authorities.

Operation LASER - response to a worldwide pandemic

Operation LASER is the Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) response to a worldwide pandemic situation.

We are currently in Phase 3: Pandemic response.

  • The virus is widespread and being transmitted in the general population

Learn more about Operation LASER and how the CAF is assisting Canadian communities

Operation VECTOR – CAF support for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines

The CAF assisted federal, provincial and territorial partners with:

  • Logistical and planning support
  • Assistance from well-trained military personnel
  • Transportation of medical equipment and supplies to remote communities

Learn more about Operation VECTOR

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COVID-19 vaccines for Defence Team members

Vaccination is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread and reduce the impact of infectious diseases. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, which has been approved by Health Canada and is the most common vaccine used in the CAF, started being distributed and administered to the first priority group in early January 2021, in accordance with the rollout of vaccine supply.

COVID-19 vaccine is currently widely available and all members of the Defence Team are encouraged to ensure their primary series is complete and to consider booster vaccination six months after your most recent immunization. CAF members should contact their supporting CAF clinic and civilian employees should follow their provincial or territorial guidelines for accessing COVID vaccination.

To learn more about the CAF rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, visit COVID-19 vaccines for Defence Team members

Reducing the COVID-19 risk to the Defence Team

Our first priority is to protect the health of Canadians. This includes protecting the health, safety and overall wellness of the Defence Team as we continue to conduct activities.

The Canadian Armed Forces, with the support of the Department of National Defence, are still relied upon to complete missions of critical importance during the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

That’s why the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have a safe, holistic and progressive approach to resuming work in the workplace.

We continue to monitor the public health risk to CAF members and operations based on the best available evidence as the COVID-19 situation evolves. Public health measures to reduce spread (such as distancing and masks) are not currently mandated in most circumstances. Nevertheless, this could change if the COVID-19 situation shifts.

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COVID-19 cases among CAF Members

As of February 26, 2024, the number of active, resolved and total cases of COVID-19 within the CAF population:

  • All current active cases: 5
  • All resolved cases: 11753
  • Total of all positive cases since the beginning of the pandemic: 11758

These numbers apply to the whole of the CAF regardless of location or mission since the beginning of the pandemic.

Leadership is closely monitoring the extent of COVID-19 in the Defence Team. The rigorous application of public health measures and the Defence Team layered risk mitigation strategy has effectively containing the spread of the virus amongst our personnel.

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Canadian Forces Health Services

The Canadian Forces Health Services (CFHS) is responsible for the care and well-being of approximately 68,000 Regular Forces members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), as well as reservists on operations or on full-time service in excess of 180 days.

The military’s healthcare system is unique in that the CAF is responsible for the provision of healthcare to its members. Through the Canada Health Act, CAF members are excluded from provincial and territorial health care coverage responsibilities. Much like a provincial or territorial health care system, CFHS is structured for internal use, and any external employment is at the expense of its core mandate.

The CFHS mandate is to:

  • Support the health of our troops – both at home and abroad
  • Train and educate health services personnel coming up through the system
  • Deploy health services in support of overseas operations

In order to carry out this mandate, the CAF employ about 2,500 Regular Force medical professionals across a wide spectrum of about 19 military occupations. Over the course of the pandemic, CFHS strength has decreased to the point where it can only fill 60% of its mandated tasks.

Healthcare, screening, vaccinations and testing are all needed to ensure our troops are ready and prepared to deploy when needed. Ensuring CAF personnel are healthy means they are ready to deploy with reduced risk of medical emergencies, thus repatriation, while deployed.

Of note:

    • Of the 155 Requests for Federal Assistance received by the Government of Canada since the start of the COVID pandemic, the CAF has provided support to over 100 of them.
    • CFHS Operational readiness has been reduced by 40% as a result of the pandemic.
    • CAF has provided support to long-term care facilities in Ontario and Quebec; First Nations communities; hospitals in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and Ontario.
    • CAF has also provided vaccine distribution and administration to multiple communities across Canada.

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