The first step of Phase 1 of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine Delivery Plan began this week as 1,950 health care workers in Saskatoon ICUs, Emergency Departments, Covid Units, testing and assessment centres began receiving their initial dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at Merlis Belcher Place at the University of Saskatchewan. In addition, the immunization pilot in Regina expanded to include more health care professionals. The pilot, which includes 1,950 health care workers, expanded to include key frontline staff in the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and anesthetists. The pilot, which began vaccinating frontline healthcare workers in Regina on December 15th, was designed to be a learning tool in the logistics of transporting, storing and distributing the vaccine from which lessons could be learned and shared with other distribution locations.
The storage complexity of the Pfizer vaccine makes it impractical to attempt to use in smaller rural and remote areas. Health Canada is expected to approve the Moderna vaccine very soon. On Thursday December 17, 2020, an advisory panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, voted 20-0 in favour of recommending approval of the Moderna vaccine. Prime Minister Trudeau stated earlier this month that once Health Canada gave its approval the first shipments could be on their way to Canada in 48 hours. The Moderna vaccine can be stored in regular temperature freezers for up to six months. Regular freezer transportation makes this vaccine a far better candidate for use in rural centres.
Amidst all the feel good news about the vaccine rollout, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) warned that there is an emerging threat against the vaccine supply chain. The CBC reported on December 17th, 2020 that a “spokesperson for CSIS said the agency has reached out to supply chain associations and industry to tell them what to look out for”. (www.cbc.ca/news/politics/csis-vaccine-distribution-threats) While this may sound like something out of a Cold War Era crime novel, one former senior intelligence analyst with CSIS Jessica Davis, who now heads a private consulting firm, and former CSIS director Ward Elcock, noted that any number of organizations would be interested in wreaking havoc with the rollout: from ‘enemy’ states wanting to undermine confidence in our country, to terrorists, to “anti-vaxxers”, to organized crime. Davis said, “with CSIS and potentially other law enforcement agencies briefing members of the supply chain, that really tells me the number of actors could be really large and the threats are very real.” As far back as May 2020, Canada’s spy agencies warned of the elevated level of risk to the cyber security of Canadian organizations involved in responding to the pandemic. (May 14, 2020; cbc.ca/news/politics/cse-csis-china-covid) On December 3, 2020 IBM’s cybersecurity unit relayed that it had detected “an advanced group of hackers working to gather information about the different aspects of the cold chain, using meticulously crafted booby-trapped emails”. (www.cbc.ca/news/world/coronavirus-vaccine-distribution-ibm-warns-hackers) Perhaps Prime Minister Trudeau’s choice of Major-General Dany Fortin to head up the vaccine distribution operation was based on more than just the military’s expertise in logistics.
Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder