Retired General Rick Hillier to head up Ontario’s vaccine rollout

TORONTO — The Ontario government has brought in a respected general to head up distribution of the jab in the battle against the virus.

Rick Hillier, former Chief of Defence Staff for the Canadian Forces and Commander of the NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, has been named chair of the province’s newly announced COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force.

The body will advise the government’s development and implementation of an immunization program, including the timely and effective distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario — leading the largest vaccine rollout in a generation.

The government expects General Hillier’s extensive experience in providing governance, strategic and public policy advice, as well as leading national and international endeavours, will prove vital to the success of the vaccine rollout.

“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 Premier Doug Ford this week. “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. I am confident he will bring the same disciplined leadership and military precision needed to execute one of the largest logistical undertakings our province has ever faced.”

“Having always believed that ‘duty calls’, the safe, secure and successful delivery of COVID-19 vaccines is a critical mission I’m honoured to accept for the people of Ontario,” said Hillier. “Having to plan with so much uncertainty, including not yet knowing the full extent of what vaccines will be approved and when, this will be no easy task. However, this task force will bring to bear an unprecedented depth and breadth of experience as we plan for the end of this pandemic.”

“We are on the verge of a critical new phase in our efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, and General Hillier’s track record of leadership and compassion makes him the right person to lead our task force,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott. “In the meantime, it’s important to keep in mind that a vaccine is still months away, so I’m urging everyone to continue following public health advice in order to limit the spread of COVID-19 and keep our communities safe.”

The COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force members will include expertise from operations and logistics, federal-provincial relations, health and clinical domains, public health and immunization, ethics, and information technology and data. It will advise on delivery, storage, and distribution of the vaccines, support for the health care system, prioritizing vulnerable populations followed by mass immunization, implementation of public education and community outreach, and the providing of data and information to the public.

Confirmed allocations of the number of doses and schedules for delivery from both Pfizer and Moderna to Ontario is expected shortly.

Actual availability of the vaccine in this country has been a source of contention, however, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has conceded this week that a number of countries will be able to roll it out to their citizens ahead of Canada. Trudeau has pointed out that Canada lacks the facilities to make the vaccines itself and is buying its entire supply from outside the country.

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