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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
CAF members are highly trained and stand ready to offer assistance in support of civilian authorities during any crisis in Canada when requested by the Government..
Following the acceptance of the request for assistance from the Government of Quebec by the Minister of National Defense and the Chief of the Defense Staff on December 31, 2021, the Canadian Armed Forces were tasked to support the provincial vaccination campaign for the 3rd dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The last day this assistance was required was February 15, 2022.
British Columbia (2021)
CFB Comox Arena Vaccination SiteIn response to a request for assistance from the province of British Columbia to support the local public health vaccination program in the Comox Valley Regional District, from March 22 to July 9, 2021, the Glacier Gardens arena at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Comox was used as the main vaccination site for local residents of the Comox Valley. The CFB Comox arena was identified as the only suitable facility in the region since it met the necessary criteria for:
- Infection control;
- Logistics requirements for pre-vaccination queuing;
- Post vaccination waiting;
- Vaccine storage and handling;
- Staff support areas;
- First aid;
- Privacy; and
- Other support areas.
The CAF’s support to EMBC involved infrastructure only. There were no CAF personnel assigned to provide vaccination support at the site.
CAF Support to Vaccination in Northern Manitoba
The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) received a request from Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) to support the local public health vaccination program in Northern Manitoba. In response to this request, the CAF provided vaccination teams to assist with the accelerated vaccine roll-out program in a number of on-reserve Indigenous communities. From March 22 to May 28, 2021, CAF personnel assisted provincial authorities with tasks associated with the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine including:
Newfoundland and Labrador (2021)
Between January 14 and 17 and February 12 and 13, 2021, four Canadian Rangers from Nain, Newfoundland and Labrador, assisted the local authorities with the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines.
They assisted with transportation of vulnerable individuals within the community to and from the vaccination site.
Northwest Territories (2021)
In response to a request for assistance (RFA), six Canadian Rangers were engaged to assist the residents of Tuktoyaktuk, Nunavut. Tasks include logistical and general support, distribution of food and supplies, and distribution of information related to pandemic response. This RFA was approved November 16, 2021 and ended on December 5, 2021.
Nova Scotia (2021)
CAF Support to Vaccination in Nova Scotia
In response to a request for assistance from Province of Nova Scotia, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) will provide 25 CAF members to assist with vaccinating members of the public in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) as part of the local public health vaccination program. Beginning on 21 June, CAF personnel will assist provincial authorities with tasks associated with the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine including:
- Administering COVID-19 vaccines to civilians
- Welcoming community members to the COVID-19 vaccination clinics
- Ushering community members through the sequencing of steps to get vaccinated
- Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and areas.
The duration of this provision of support will be determined as the situation evolves.
Nishnawbe Aski First Nation
From January 26 to April 30, 2021, in response to a Request for Assistance (RFA) to support the Government of Ontario and ORNGE partners with the delivery of the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to 32 communities of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation in Northern Ontario, Canadian Rangers from those communities, and additional CAF personnel assisted provincial vaccination authorities with tasks associated with vaccine administration. These tasks included:
- General logistics support including transportation of personnel, community members, and materials;
- Local coordination including translation, integration of mobile teams, and distribution of information and educational materials; and
- Administrative support including conducting COVID pre-screening questionnaires, reception, and other general support to planning and operations.
On May 31, 2021, CAF personnel resumed their assistance to the Government of Ontario and their ORNGE partners with the delivery of vaccines to teenagers and other members of the communities choosing to receive the COVID-19 vaccines. Support is expected to continue until the end of August.
In response to a request for assistance (RFA), Canadian Rangers have been engaged to support provincial vaccination programs in remote indigenous communities. This support includes 3rd doses for vulnerable population, and vaccination for the 5-11 age group, as well as the influenza vaccine. This RFA was approved on November 10, 2021 and expired 31 March 2022.
Watson Lake, YK
In response to a request for assistance by the Yukon Territory Emergency Measures Office, five Canadian Rangers from the community of Watson Lake have been activated on January 20, 2021, to assist local authorities with tearing down a temporary vaccine administration site.
Canada’s North (2020)
Freezer delivery to Canada’s North
Between December 12 and 15, 2020, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) delivered five medical-grade low-temperature freezers (-35°C) to two of our Northern territories.
The freezers were delivered via a RCAF CC-130J Hercules Aircraft. This activity is in support of our PHAC partners, who are leading the federal COVID-19 vaccine roll-out plan.
Vaccines for COVID-19: Canada’s vaccine supply
Military response to COVID-19