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Operation VECTOR is the Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) support to the Federal, Provincial, and Territorial governments for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
The CAF has the unique ability to rapidly deploy anywhere in Canada to offer assistance to communities in need. This assistance complements and enhances federal, provincial and local resources with well-trained military personnel and specialized equipment.
About Operation VECTOR
The CAF is ready to respond wherever and whenever the government needs us to help protect Canadians. The Defence Team has been, is, and will continue to be, part of the national response to help minimize the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The planning for and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is logistically complex given the geography of the country, requirements for ultra-cold storage, distribution to remote and isolated communities, and coordination between various levels of government. To this challenge, the CAF brings an array of experience and logistical expertise that enhances federal logistic planning and operations.
While the administering of vaccinations is not the CAF’s primary role, the Minister of National Defence has authorized the CAF to vaccinate certain additional populations not usually covered by CAF healthcare, with authority for specific circumstances delegated to the Director of Health Service Operations (DHSO).
Planning, training and logistics
As part of the planning process by the Vaccine Roll-out Task Force, specific roles for the CAF may be identified.
To ensure that the CAF is fully poised and prepared to support this effort, we have laid the groundwork to have people and equipment available to support delivery of the vaccine, if required, under CAF Operation VECTOR.
Through prudent planning with our partner organizations, the CAF is prepared to support in a variety of ways, leveraging the expertise and capabilities of our personnel and equipment.
As part of that planning, and in anticipation of requests for CAF assistance, select CAF personnel across the country have been conducting specific, tailored training so as to be ready to provide assistance as rapidly as circumstances permit. This training is in place to ensure that CAF personnel participating in the fight against COVID-19 are adequately prepared to overcome the challenges they may face.
Possible tasks that are being planned for include:
- Providing international transportation to bring COVID-19 vaccines to Canada from manufacturers abroad
- transporting freezers, medical supplies, and health care professionals to remote, northern, and coastal communities, and
- providing logistical staff to warehousing facilities, distribution hubs, and immunization clinics
These tasks would be in addition to the CAF’s readiness to concurrently respond to other COVID-19 requests for assistance, as well as those due to natural disasters such as ice storms, floods, and forest fires.
We have also assigned military liaison officers for each province and territory, who are acting as a liaison for the logistics of the vaccine roll-out. They are in constant communication with their provincial counterparts to ensure close coordination and cohesion of efforts. Their roles will be further developed as planning progresses and the CAF role is further refined.
We are working closely with our partners who will confirm details on the specific role and set of tasks the CAF will undertake.
Canadian Armed Forces assistance
Vaccine Roll-out Task Force
A team of CAF members is supporting PHAC with ongoing planning and coordination for the transport, storage, and distribution of vaccines.
In November, Major-General Dany Fortin was seconded to PHAC and named Vice President Logistics and Operations at PHAC alongside other leaders in PHAC’s Vaccine Roll-out Task Force. Major-General Fortin is assigned to oversee logistical planning including the running of the National Operations Centre.
With the further leadership of Brigadier-General Simon Bernard and Brigadier-General Krista Brodie, additional CAF personnel are currently seconded to PHAC as part of this team as well. These include senior leaders, logistics experts, operational planners, pharmacists, physicians, health care administrators, engineers, and information technology and systems experts.
Their tasks include helping to establish the operations centre that to oversee the vaccine roll-out, synchronizing vaccine delivery efforts and providing constant awareness of the status of vaccine storage, delivery and strategy implementation. These CAF members are strengthening plans by introducing risk mitigation tools and conducting a series of exercises that will stress-test plans.
This planning is a significant undertaking, remains ongoing, and is rehearsed to verify its effectiveness, identify challenges, and establish contingency plans.
For more information about this aspect, please contact the Public Health Agency of Canada.