Ottawa seeking consultant to advise on coronavirus vaccine rollout amid questions

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Canada to see ‘dramatic acceleration’ of vaccine deliveries in coming months, says Anand' Coronavirus: Canada to see ‘dramatic acceleration’ of vaccine deliveries in coming months, says Anand
Canadians could expect to see a “dramatic acceleration” in the pace of scheduled COVID-19 vaccine deliveries once the country enters the second and third quarter of the year, said Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand. – Jan 12, 2021

The federal government is looking to bring in an external public health consultant to advise on coronavirus vaccine distribution, amid growing scrutiny and questions over how the process is unfolding.

Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Tuesday that Canada is poised to see “dramatic acceleration” in the delivery of coronavirus vaccines in the summer and fall, as officials keep all eyes on a timeline, laid out late last year, in which all Canadians who want a vaccine will get one by September 2021.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau added the country remains “on track” for that target.

READ MORE: Canada adds 6,285 new coronavirus cases as country secures more vaccine doses

With the announcement this week of an extra 20 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine set to arrive in Canada this year, that puts the total number of coveted vaccines scheduled to land on Canadian soil this year at 80 million doses — more than enough to cover the entire population for two doses.

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Premiers, like Ontario’s Doug Ford, have said the federal government is not shipping doses to the provinces quickly enough, as public pressure and frustrations mount as cases rapidly spike. At the same time, Ontario is among jurisdictions where public health experts have criticized provincial leaders for partial and frequently unclear restrictions.

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That is the context in which the Public Health Agency of Canada is looking to hire an external public health expert to consult on an “as needed” basis about vaccine distribution efforts.

The tender notice, posted on the government procurement website on Wednesday morning, says the individual will be responsible for developing and introducing “public health guidance to support the federal, provincial and territorial (F/P/T) efforts related to the vaccine’s rollout.”

That includes conducting post mortems on the decisions by federal and provincial or territorial counterparts, and “providing guidance in terms of mass vaccination efforts.”

It’s not clear why PHAC is looking to bring in an external public health expert for those tasks.

Global News has requested more detail from the agency on the decision.

READ MORE: Canada secures 20M more Pfizer doses as vaccine makers monitor 2nd dose controversy

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The posting also comes as the National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued new advice on Wednesday, saying the 21-day and 28-day schedules between doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines can be stretched to up to six weeks, if necessary.

Of the roughly 550,000 doses of the vaccines that have arrived in Canada since December, 71 per cent have actually been injected into people’s arms.

Another 380,000 are expected to arrive this week.

The federal government has also launched a tracker website publishing the specific number of doses scheduled to be delivered to each province over the coming weeks, after some premiers criticized the government for not providing clear enough information on their delivery timelines.

Click to play video 'Some premiers worry about coronavirus vaccine shortage' Some premiers worry about coronavirus vaccine shortage
Some premiers worry about coronavirus vaccine shortage – Jan 8, 2021