The Ford government has unveiled the members of its COVID-19 vaccine task force, a list that includes former police chief Mark Saunders, the CEO of a large manufacturing company and a bioethicist who will help decide who will receive the vaccine first.

A total of 10 individuals will sit on the task force, which will be led by retired General Rick Hillier.

They will be responsible for ensuring that the vaccines can be quickly distributed and administered once they are approved by Health Canada and helping to determine the priority list of who will receive it first.

“We do have a number of medical experts (on the task force) but this is not just a medical procedure. This is a logistic procedure in that we have to move this vaccine all across this vast and beautiful province,” Ontario’s Solicitor General Silvia Jones told CP24 on Friday afternoon. “So we very specifically went looking for people who had leadership and expertise in very critical areas that we are going to need to roll out the vaccine successfully and in a timely manner.”

The members of the task force include:

  • Dr. Dirk Huyer, Ontario's Chief Coroner and Coordinator of Provincial Outbreak Response
  • Dr. Homer Tien, trauma surgeon and President and CEO, Ornge
  • Dr. Maxwell Smith, bioethicist and assistant professor, Western University
  • Dr. Isaac Bogoch, infectious diseases consultant and internist, Toronto General Hospital
  • Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald of Taykwa Tagamou Nation
  • Dr. Regis Vaillancourt, Director of Pharmacy and Integrated Pain Services, Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario
  • Linda Hasenfratz, CEO, Linamar Corporation
  • Angela Mondou, President and CEO, TECHNATION
  • Mark Saunders, former Toronto Police Chief

Federal officials have said that province’s need to have sites ready to receive the vaccine by Dec. 14, though it is unlikely that any Canadians will receive the shot until early 2021.

In a news release issued on Friday morning, the Ford government said that members of the task force will immediately get to work on several key areas, specifically “delivery, logistics and administration, clinical guidance as well as public education and outreach.”

The inaugural meeting of the task force took place this afternoon via telecronference and was focused on discussing which priority populations should receive the vaccine first.

Speaking with task force members at the outset of the call, Premier Doug Ford told them that the arrival of vaccines will give people “hope” and will eventually allow Ontario to get its economy “back up and running again.”

But before that can happen he said that members of the task force will have to plan for what will be the most “complicated logistical distribution of anything we've seen in this country in many, many years.”

“It's our job to make sure we distribute it in a timely fashion and when I say timely I mean almost immediately,” Ford said. “It’s who is getting it first and where we're going to deliver it and what locations and I have all the confidence in this panel we've put together. We have some of the brightest minds anywhere in Canada on this panel.”

Doug Ford

Vaccine won’t be administered in pharmacies

Health Minister Christine Elliott has previously said that Ontario expects to receive a combined 2.4 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines during the first three months of 2021, which would be enough to vaccinate an estimated 1.2 million residents.

But the federal government has yet to provide a firm data for when shipments will begin arriving, nor has it specified which vaccines will arrive first.

Speaking with CP24 about the rollout on Friday morning, Toronto Mayor John Tory said that the city also has a separate task force that is planning for the actual administration of shots.

“We have a group working very hard on the part we are responsible for which is the actual delivery of the vaccine, delivery meaning the actual putting of the needle in the arm,” he said. “We have to find places to do that, its places where you can have large crowds in a safe way, its places where you can have space available to store the vaccine and have all the doctors and nurses there and so on. We are just not having press conferences to announce the task force. They are just doing their work.”

Tory said that he does not expect the vaccine to be administered in pharmacies at first, as is the case with the flu shot.

Instead, he said that there will be “large vaccine centres” equipped with the ultra-cold freezers required to store at least one of the candidate vaccines.

Some of those, he noted, have already been identified.

“We have made the arrangements and we are just moving ahead with the work, doing it hand-in-hand of course with the province and the federal government,” he said.