Toronto creates task force to plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution
Specimens to be tested for COVID-19 are seen at LifeLabs after being logged upon receipt at the company's lab, in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Published Monday, November 9, 2020 5:14PM EST
Amid news that a COVID-19 vaccine may be available early next year, Toronto has begun preparations on how to administer the much-anticipated doses.
The newly launched COVID-19 Immunization Task Force will work on creating a “comprehensive plan that will ensure the city is ready once a safe and effective vaccine is available.”
“The eventual rollout of a city-wide COVID-19 immunization operation represents a massive planning and logistics operation, and is believed to be the most complex in Toronto's history,” Matthew Pegg, General Manager of Emergency Management for the city, told reporters on Monday.
“While it is not yet clear when a vaccine will be available, our immunization task force will make sure that the city is ready to play its role in helping Torontonians get vaccinated.”
The task force was announced as multinational pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer Inc. said that their COVID-19 vaccine may be 90 per cent effective and could be ready for distribution in early 2021.
The preliminary data shared by Pfizer Inc. has been applauded by health officials, who called the surprising results “extraordinary” and "extremely promising.” At the same time, politicians say the process for gaining final approval is still months away, and it may take even longer to distribute to everyone who needs it.
Pegg said that once a vaccine has been approved, each level of government will be responsible for a specific aspect of rolling it out.
While the federal government is responsible for the approval and procurement of vaccines, the province’s job will be to come up with an overarching immunization strategy.
The city, Pegg said, will lead local implementation of that strategy once guidance from the province is provided.
“This could range from allocating and distributing our allotted vaccine doses, working with medical practitioners, administering vaccines through clinics and other methods, and providing data back to the province, so they can determine and report on the overall success of the campaign.”
Joe Cressy, Chair of Toronto’s Board of Health, said that the effort by the medical and scientific communities to develop a vaccine “should give us all hope,” but residents should know that once it’s ready, there is still a lot of work to ensure those who are most at risk get the vaccine first
“There is light at the end of this tunnel. However, developing a vaccine is only the first step, procuring, distributing and administering a vaccine for a city of three million people will require an integrated response or response where each level of government has a role to play,” he said.