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COVID-19 vaccine will be available early January, Gen. Rick Hillier to lead distribution task force

Last Updated Nov 23, 2020 at 10:09 pm EDT

Premier Doug Ford says a COVID-19 vaccine will be available to Ontarians in early January, 2021.

In his daily briefing on Monday, Ford said the provincial government is working with its federal counterparts to nail down exactly when Health Canada approvals will be granted and timelines on when Ontario will receive shipments.

Ford said the vaccine rollout will be a “massive logistical challenge” and his government has been working on the infrastructure and tools required to deliver the vaccine as smoothly as possible for months.

He announced a task force to oversee vaccine distribution, helmed by General Rick Hillier (retired).

“The fact that we are setting up this task force is a sign that we are making progress in the fight against COVID-19,” said Ford.

The vaccine rollout will be the “largest logistical undertaking in a generation” which will require military precision, the premier added.

“We need the discipline that only a general can bring to this task,” said Ford. “We still have a long way to go, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That’s why I have asked General Hillier to lead this effort, because we need the best of the best for the monumental task at hand.”

General Hillier (retired) previously served as the Chief of Defence for the Canadian Armed Forces and Commander of the NATO-led forces during the War in Afghanistan.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force will include members from within and outside the government who have expertise in operations and logistics, federal-provincial relations, public health, immunization, health and clinical domains, ethics and information technology and data. Other members of the task force will be announced in the coming days.

The task force will provide recommendations on how to roll out a timely and efficient immunization program for the province, ensuring people can be vaccinated as quickly and safely as possible.

Ontario’s minister of health, Christine Elliott, reiterated that progress continues to be made with regards to the province securing doses of Pfizer and Moderna’s recently announced vaccines.

Last week, Elliott said Ontario will get roughly 1.6 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine and around 800,000 of Moderna’s for proper distribution.

On Monday, pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said that late-stage trials showed its COVID-19 vaccine was up to 90 per cent effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals.