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Major-General Dany Fortin, the vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada and head of the country's vaccine distribution efforts, explained that work is being done to ensure there is “safe and efficient” distribution of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, once it receive Health Canada approval.
Maj.-Gen. Fortin said a dry run of the distribution process is ongoing to confirm the ordering, importation and shipment process for the Moderna vaccine, as part of a “phased approach to readiness.”
This past weekend, five freezers procured by the Public Health Agency of Canada were delivered, by the armed forces, to Canada’s territories in advance of the Moderna vaccine being approved.
Territorial leaders have said that they would prefer to have their allocation of the six million COVID-19 vaccines for the first quarter of 2021 to only be the Moderna product, not the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that has the ultra-cold temperature storage requirement.
Health Canada has not been able to provide a definitive answer on when the Moderna vaccine will be approved, but it is expected in the coming weeks.
Moderna vaccine doses are also going to be used to vaccinate Indigenous communities in Canada.
As of Dec. 15, 6,390 First Nations, on reserve COVID-19 cases have been reported, with 2,472 of those cases considered active. Half of of First Nations communities in Canada have experience COVID-19 cases, with significant number in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Provinces will be responsible for ensure that allocated COVID-19 vaccine doses are sent to Indigenous communities, but Indigenous Services Canada will be involved as well.
“We are very actively discussing Indigenous people who might be disproportionately impacted,” Dr. Evan Adams, deputy chief medical officer of public health for Indigenous Services Canada said on Wednesday. “That can mean those who are underserved, perhaps in rural and remote areas, but also those where we’re seeing outbreaks.”
Dr. Adams added that there have been some concerns about possible age considerations that should be made for Indigenous communities.
Dr. Tom Wong, chief medical officer of public health for Indigenous Services Canada, highlighted that life expectancy is shorter in Indigenous people and in Manitoba, the age of COVID-19 cases with severe consequences has been 15 to 20 years younger than the general provincial population.
Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, said that provinces will have to priorities people for COVID-19 vaccine doses, within the nationally established priority populations. As more doses become available in the spring and summer of 2021, there can be a greater focus nationally on younger age groups and essential workers, outside of the health care sector.