Thursday was the first full day that members of the Canadian military helped with the COVID-19 vaccination rollout in Quebec.
About 200 troops, mostly Montreal-area reservists, were deployed at five vaccination sites in the Montreal area, including the Montreal Olympic Stadium, the Palais des congrès and Decarie Square.
The troops are not administering vaccines to the public, according to Lieutenant Colonel Ban Doran of 34 Combat Engineer Regiment, and Commanding Officer of the Montreal Territorial Battalion.
Their role, for now, is helping people with mobility problems, giving directions and providing administrative assistance.
“So essentially, data entry to support the work being done in running people through the different sequence of vaccinations,” he told Global News at the Olympic Stadium.
The deployment follows Quebec’s call for federal help amid the recent soaring COVID infection rates and a public relations push to get third doses delivered. It falls under Operation Vector, “the Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) support to the Federal, Provincial, and Territorial governments for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines,” according to a government of Canada website.
To prepare for this assignment the military members took mandatory courses, according to Doran.
“The ministry has a number of online courses that each troop, every member needs to follow,” he explained. “All the people that are here followed those five courses.”
Also since Monday, troops rotated through one-day on-the-job training sessions at vaccination sites.
“At this point, we are on a 30-day mandate that began Jan. 3,” he said.
This is the second time in the pandemic that the province is getting the military’s help. In 2020 they augmented medical staff at seniors’ residences.
The members deployed now are not medical specialists, however.
Whether any troops will be sent to hospitals to help with staff shortages is still being determined, according to the Quebec government.
Right now the focus is on getting the vaccination rates up.
“January we’re gonna vaccinate close to three million Quebecers,” said Daniel Paré, Quebec vaccination campaign director during a provincial COVID-19 update Thursday. “It’s probably going be the same level in February and March.”
Paré also pointed out that assessments are being done to see whether additional troops will be requested and where else in the province they will be sent.