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Threats to coronavirus vaccines among reasons military leading rollout: Trudeau

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the possibility of threats to the country’s precious supply of coronavirus vaccines is among the reasons why the military is leading distribution.

In a year-end interview, Trudeau was asked about the security of the vaccine rollout following comments from B.C.’s top doctor, as well as the military head of the distribution effort, that acknowledged there are indications the vaccines or their rollout could be targeted.

“That’s one of the reasons why we’re so pleased to have the Canadian Armed Forces’ Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin in charge of the logistics and the delivery of vaccines,” Trudeau said when asked whether he was concerned there could be an attempt to hijack or attack the vaccines.

“They are assessing, as they always do, all sorts of potential threats — from storms to criminal activities — to make sure not just that we’re protecting those vaccines, but that we’re protecting the integrity of the supply chain.”

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READ MORE: Canada monitoring potential threats to vaccine rollout: feds

The coronavirus has ravaged the globe since it was first identified on Dec. 31, 2019, in China.

The World Health Organization declared a pandemic in early March and in the roughly 10 months since, Canada and countries around the world have fought to contain the spread of the highly contagious virus even as vast and serious ranges of symptoms have continued to alarm scientists.

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Global scientific attention has narrowed to a hyper-focus on finding a vaccine in the hope that societies and economies can safely reopen from the restrictions put in place to limit the spread.

More than 1.6 million people around the world who contracted the virus have died.

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Another 75 million have tested positive so far, with symptoms ranging from none to mild to severe, and many known as “long haulers” continue to suffer neurological and respiratory effects months later.

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The pandemic declaration sent countries scrambling to secure personal protective equipment for health-care workers on the front lines, which Trudeau acknowledged is something he would have done differently looking back on how his government handled those procurements.

“There’s lots of things that we learned that we would we would have done differently, we would have done quicker. We would have made sure we had better stockpiles of PPE” he said.

“I think there’s lots of learnings that we had and we were figuring it out on the fly with a whole bunch of people around the world doing the same thing.”

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He added the rapid spread took many by surprise.

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“We were like everyone around the world thinking it was an ‘over there’ problem and hoping we’d be able to manage it,” he said. “Then when everyone came home from spring break, we suddenly realized the extent that it was already out there around the world.”

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Hordes of people around the world and from Canada travelled for spring break.

One study found that 247 of those spring break travellers from Quebec were the root of the province’s explosion of cases after they returned prior to quarantine orders being imposed on travel.

The federal government’s emergency response to the resulting crisis in cases around the country — now totalling just shy of half a million infections with more than 14,000 deaths — has sent the deficit soaring.

It’s now on track to hit $382 billion this fiscal year.

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READ MORE: U.S. is planning to vaccinate 39 million more people than Canada this year. Here’s why

Trudeau has defended the level of spending, saying it is necessary to prevent Canadians from needing to take on personal debt and to prime the economy to return to normal without lasting damage.

“I think we’re in a time of a certain amount of cynicism around government,” he said, suggesting the pandemic has shown the need for more government support.

“People wonder if their institutions can actually be there to support them. If we’re actually building for the future in the right ways. And there’s a level of distance people are getting from government actually making a difference in their lives.”

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“We got to see this year Canadians coming together, neighbors being there for neighbors, but also all orders of government pulling together, working together and delivering and making sure that people were able to get through this.

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Initial doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine began rolling out across the country this month, with three million people expected to be vaccinated between January and March 2021.

After that, vaccinations for the general population are slated to start in April and continue through the summer and fall before wrapping up at the end of 2021.

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