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Trudeau says former NATO commander will lead COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Last Updated Nov 27, 2020 at 11:24 am MST

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Former NATO commander Major-General Dany Fortin will lead Canada's vaccine distribution efforts

Trudeau says National Operations Centre has been created to coordinate logistics, distribution of COVID-19 vaccine

Appointment of former NATO commander as head of vaccine efforts comes as Liberals face mounting criticism over plans

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – As the Trudeau government continues to face backlash over its COVID-19 vaccination plans, it’s been confirmed that former NATO commander Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin will lead Canada’s vaccine distribution efforts.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and health authorities have said that the military will play a key role in getting the vaccines, when they are approved for use, to the country’s most vulnerable.

“Canada is well prepared for large-scale rollouts of vaccines, but this will be the biggest immunization in the history of the country,” he said outside his Rideau Cottage home. “We must reach everyone who wants a vaccine no matter where they live.”

It’s for this reason that he said the country was setting up a new body to stickhandle the complex task.

“We are standing up a National Operations Centre, through the Public Health Agency of Canada, with the support of the Canadian Armed Forces to coordinate logistics and distribution of vaccines,” Trudeau said.

The update came as the country continues to grapple with the second wave of COVID-19. Many of the provinces continue to shatter records for daily cases and hospitals in parts of Canada are struggling to deal with the surge in cases.

Uncertainty, concern among premiers

Trudeau reaffirmed that the federal government and provinces will need to work seamlessly to guarantee the success of the National Operations Centre.

“In our meeting, the premiers spoke about the need to work in partnership with the federal government,” he said. “They also brought up the fact that in certain cases, they will need support to ensure that everyone is reached, including vulnerable people and Indigenous people.”

Premiers have said they need more answers around vaccine rollout, noting they are responsible for the final logistics.

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They held their own conference call on Thursday ahead of their meeting with the prime minister. A source tells the Globe & Mail Trudeau failed to offer much clarity, saying not much more than what’s been unveiled publicly.

A firm date on vaccine delivery is among the details premiers are looking for the government to confirm. However, Ottawa has said it can’t give such information until a vaccine is approved.

The prime minister was also pressed on Friday about why it’s taken so long to appoint someone to lead vaccine rollout efforts, given the approval of a vaccine could be just weeks away.

While he did not directly answer, Trudeau said the federal government has been working on vaccine plans with the provinces since the spring.

Trudeau has reiterated what the country’s deputy chief public health officer said on Thursday, that “Canada will be ready when a vaccine is ready.”