Good afternoon, everyone. I call this meeting to order.
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Today we are resuming our study of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canadian Armed Forces operations. We are very lucky to have two very sought-after witnesses with us to help us.
We have Major-General Dany Fortin, vice-president, vaccine rollout task force, logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Also with us is Major-General Mark Misener, acting chief of staff, operations, Canadian Joint Operations Command.
We thank you, witnesses. We understand just how valuable your time is and we are very grateful that you can be with us today.
I'm going to allow each of our witnesses a 10-minute opening statement. Then after the two statements are done, we will proceed with rounds of questions.
With that, I would like to welcome Major-General Dany Fortin to address the committee.
Welcome, General Fortin, and thank you for your time.
Madam Chair, thank you very much.
Thank you for inviting me to discuss the role that my team and I have been playing in the whole-of-government response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I am Major-General Dany Fortin. As you mentioned, I'm the vice-president of the vaccine rollout task force, logistics and operations, at the Public Health Agency of Canada and responsible for the oversight and distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations to Canadians.
The distribution of COVID-19 vaccines on a national scale is an operation of unprecedented proportions. It became evident early on in the procurement process, as the Government of Canada was identifying vaccine candidates, that the early-to-market mRNA COVID-19 vaccines would have unique handling and storing requirements that would necessitate novel, fit-for-purpose logistical solutions outside the scope of Canada’s usual immunization programs.
The particular suite of challenges posed by these novel vaccines lends itself well to CAF organizational skill sets in managing complex large-scale operations, particularly when complemented by the scientific and immunization expertise within the public health domain to form an interdisciplinary team to guide the distribution of many millions of vaccines across the nation.
By way of context for the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence augmentation to the Public Health Agency, the team has been operating in its current configuration since November, but the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence augmentation to the agency goes back over 10 months. Over the spring and summer months, from March to August, a team of CAF members supported efforts to develop the warehousing and distribution contracts for Canada’s large-scale PPE orders.
Early in the fall, additional CAF members and DND personnel were brought in to bolster planning and coordination capacity at the agency and contribute to the creation of a dedicated vaccine rollout task force. The vaccine logistics planning team and the national operations centre for vaccines advance party preceded my November arrival by a month.
My team at the agency currently has 52 personnel. It includes logistics experts, operational and medical planners and specialists, information technology and systems experts, contracting experts and a communications team to prepare me for the engagements. It is focused on all dimensions of COVID-19 vaccine distribution planning, including ancillary supplies and cold chain enabling equipment, as well as the running of the vaccine rollout national operations centre, the central coordination hub for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to provinces and territories, as well as to federal jurisdictions.
The mandate of the national operations centre includes the coordination of vaccine orders from federal, provincial and territorial partners to the manufacturers; the coordination with the federal logistics service provider for the transport and distribution of vaccines to vaccine delivery sites across Canada as identified by provinces and territories; the coordination of delivery of ancillary supplies and enabling equipment from the agency’s national emergency strategic stockpile; and ensuring the timely and transparent communication between partners and stakeholders, including vaccine manufacturers and logistics service providers, is maintained to enable efficient operations.
The team’s work revolves around the planning and coordination of the practical aspects of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Throughout November and December and now into January, we implemented a deliberate and phased approach to COVID-19 vaccine readiness. This provided us with the opportunity to assess and begin scaling up the cold chain capacity across Canada and to roll out the training, ancillary and enabling equipment.
My team helped strengthen the distribution plan by introducing risk mitigation tools. Through a series of established exercises and rehearsals, we collectively stress-tested the vaccine distribution plans, verified their effectiveness, identified the challenges and established contingency plans.
In light of the unique cold chain requirements of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, this approach ensured that the initial capacity to receive, store and administer the vaccines at the provincial and territorial level was appropriate for the limited supply expected in phase one or the first quarter. These efforts culminated in an early vaccine rollout mid-December.
Our planning and execution, at every step, has been done in close collaboration with all stakeholders—federal, provincial, territorial, and indigenous partners, as well as industry stakeholders—to ensure that vaccines continue to be delivered efficiently and safely to all regions in Canada.
The quantity of doses arriving in Canada will continue to grow. We expect that shipments from Pfizer-BioNTech will accelerate in the latter half of February and through March to reach their Q1 commitment of four million doses. We also expect over one million doses of Moderna in March to reach their commitment of two million doses by March 31.
This will set the stage for the large scale ramp-up we anticipate in the second quarter of 20 million doses of approved vaccines, with the potential of even more as additional vaccine candidates are authorized by the regulators at Health Canada, and supply becomes available.
We are working to build capacity within the Public Health Agency of Canada and to support efforts across the provinces and territories to ensure the success of Canada's COVID-19 immunization campaign, and to set the conditions for a more robust institutional capacity to face future pandemics.
While we focus on this mission, we are working to identify key capabilities and functions currently being provided by Canadian Armed Forces and Department of National Defence members on the team so that appropriate human resource planning can occur at the agency to ensure the continuity of COVID-19 vaccine distribution to Canadians.
In conclusion, the CAF members and DND personnel assigned to this mission are proud and humbled to be part of this whole-of-nation effort to support Canada's COVID-19 immunization strategy.
With that, I will say thank you very much, and I will now hand it over to General Misener.
Madam Chair, thank you for the opportunity to appear today to discuss the role that the Canadian Armed Forces is playing in the whole-of-government response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I am Major-General Mark Misener, chief of staff to the commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command.
I will focus my remarks today on how the CAF operates to support this whole-of-government plan, the role of CJOC in this operation and our support to the COVID-19 vaccination plan.
At CJOC, we are responsible for the command and control of Canadian Armed Forces operations, whether domestic or international. In that sense, we are the action arm for the Canadian Armed Forces COVID-19 response, as we support the government in delivering on the support requested from federal, provincial and territorial governments. This also includes the planning needed to undertake these operations.
In close collaboration with the Public Health Agency, the Canadian Armed Forces initiated Operation Vector, our support to Canada's vaccine distribution. There are three key components to this operation.
The first is supporting the Public Health Agency with planning assistance. This includes support to the national operations centre, the warehousing of PPE and equipment, supporting provinces and territories with planning, and if required and requested, assisting the provinces with their own vaccine distribution plans.
The second component is maintaining a robust ready force comprising sea, land and air force elements. These elements also support other government departments in order to streamline communications that are integral to all government contingency planning.
The third is vaccinating our own CAF members as our allocations are provided, including our members deployed overseas.
As the Canadian Armed Forces, or CAF, planned Operation Vector, it was important that our tasked personnel came from the local communities to the extent possible, both to minimize movement between communities and to draw from their deeper understanding of the local situation on the ground.
Operation Vector is maximizing the use of our Reserve Force and the Canadian Rangers to respond to demands, so as to keep CAF members' movement as low as possible and thus reduce the risk of spreading the virus.
The types of tasks anticipated range from assisting with planning and coordinating the transport, storage and distribution of vaccines, to assisting local communities with setting up vaccination clinics.
To date, we have seen requests to move equipment, such as the transportation of freezers to the territories in the north, and, in preparation for the receipt of the vaccine, assisting in the transportation of Canadians in remote parts of our country to vaccine clinics as well as assisting with the set-up of vaccine clinics themselves.
As for vaccinations for CAF members, we've already received an initial allocation of vaccines for our military health care workers and are fully part of the national plan. As the availability of vaccines in Canada ramps up, the CAF will conduct our internal vaccination plan to ensure our members are safe, better prepared to operate in the COVID environment and will not transmit the virus to the Canadian population at home or to our allies and partners abroad.
The CAF has supported Canadians throughout the pandemic and remains postured and prepared to do our part alongside other departments, partners and Canadians in the vaccine distribution effort.
In fact, as part of Operation Laser, the Canadian Armed Forces are currently providing vital assistance and care to northern and isolated communities. The Canadian Rangers also continue to be active across Canada, providing assistance to northern and indigenous communities as required.
Madam Chair, I would now be pleased to take your questions.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to thank you, witnesses General Fortin and General Misener, for the incredible work you're both doing on battling COVID across this country. There's no question in my mind that rolling out this vaccine and dealing with the pandemic would not be possible without the brave men and women in our forces. The skill set you guys bring to the job, the command, the control, the leadership and the delivery of services are, bar none, the best in the world. Please pass on our thanks and gratitude to all the members of the Canadian Armed Forces whether they are working on Operation Laser or Operation Vector, or they are deployed overseas, or they are standing ready here at home. They are all doing their part to keep all of us safe.
General Misener, you were talking about our troops and their getting vaccinated. We heard reports earlier this week that in the last month 250 members of the Canadian Armed Forces have been infected with COVID-19. Can you tell us quickly whether or not they became ill through community exposure, while in service in long-term care homes, or in helping our indigenous populations in northern communities, or if they were deployed overseas and became infected through that stage? Also, I hope each and every one of them has been able to recover from their illness.
Thank you, General. I appreciate that. Again, please pass on our best wishes to everyone for a quick and speedy recovery.
I know that some of our colleagues are probably going to ask you questions about vaccinating our troops before they deploy, but I do want to go to General Fortin on the issues surrounding vaccine availability.
You were on the news yesterday talking about the complications of doing vaccine distribution across this country as part of Operation Vector because of the reductions in supply coming from Pfizer.
Today we learned that Moderna has now also decreased supplies. The Pfizer reduction puts us behind schedule by the end of February. The numbers I'm reading in the news show that we are 845,000 doses of vaccine short. Now with the Moderna reduction, that's going to put us at over a million doses behind the eight ball.
General Fortin, how are you going to be able to provide that logistical support to the government, which has been so inept at being able to get its hands on doses at the same rate that 20 plus other countries around the world who are way ahead of us in the vaccination process have?
Madam Chair, I thank the member for his question.
To start off, I would like to point out that the manufacturers are dealing with new products and with production challenges, and that we can expect fluctuations in their production.
We certainly have experienced a bump in the road with the recent reduction in what we can hope to receive from Pfizer during a period of about four weeks.
Pfizer assured us that we are to receive four million doses by the end of March and they continue to assure us of that. Moderna assures us that they will provide two million doses by the end of March. As we get closer to that deadline, there is more and more pressure on all of us to provide the right quantities.
I want to assure Canadians that we are working extremely hard with the manufacturers and with all the stakeholders to have as efficient a rollout as possible. We are dependent on what the manufacturers are able to produce with a new technology and a new type of vaccine, with the global demand or global market that is putting pressures on everyone.
I remain committed to providing as clear a picture to Canadians and to this committee and other committees as possible with regard to what we can expect and when and to working very closely with all stakeholders.
Thank you very much, Chair.
Thank you, General Fortin and General Misener, for being with us today. I'd like to extend my thanks, on behalf of my community and my caucus, for your service, particularly at this critical time during COVID-19 as you help Canada fight COVID-19 through vaccinations, through Operation Laser and through a number of different ways. Thank you for that, and please pass that along to your teams as well, if you would.
I'd like to return to an issue that is close to my heart, close to many people in my community and I think close to many Canadians. That's the issue of long-term care. I'll direct my question to General Misener first.
In Etobicoke Centre, the community I represent, we lost 42 residents to COVID-19 at the Eatonville long-term care centre. This is one of the homes where Canadian Armed Forces personnel served in the spring. First of all, I'd like to once again extend my thanks to the armed forces for serving in all of the long-term care homes that personnel served in, but particularly those CAF members who cared for and saved the lives of constituents in my community in Etobicoke Centre. I'd also like to thank the CAF for preparing the report that was made public and that described horrific and abusive conditions at a number of long-term care homes where they were posted. I think that report is important, because it enabled awareness that led to advocacy and the federal government committing to national standards for long-term care. When implemented, those will make a difference for generations of seniors.
The current situation, however, is dire. Despite the above service that I talked about, despite the attention that was given to long-term care during the first wave, not enough was done—I'll speak about the context in Ontario—to learn the lessons from the first wave of the pandemic and protect our seniors during the second wave of COVID-19. In Ontario right now, approximately 256 long-term care homes, which is 41% of all long-term care homes in the province, are in outbreak. In Ontario, public health authorities project that more residents are projected to die of COVID-19 in the second wave of the pandemic than in the first.
To me, this is beyond reprehensible. The lack of action to protect our seniors in long-term care in the second wave, given what we knew from the first wave, is beyond reprehensible. Of course, it's also disappointing to me that the Ontario government has refused to work with the federal government and other provinces on national standards for long-term care. To me, this is the only way to ensure that, over the long term, seniors in long-term care get the care they deserve and we address the issues that were raised in the report prepared by the Canadian Armed Forces.
To your knowledge, General Misener, has the Ontario government requested assistance from the Canadian Armed Forces to help in long-term care during the second wave of the pandemic?
I'll begin by acknowledging that many people are suffering with COVID, especially in long-term care facilities, and by thanking the speaker for the comments on the Canadian Armed Forces contribution to long-term care facilities during wave one.
In response to your question on the Canadian Armed Forces, we're ready to respond wherever and whenever the government needs us to help protect Canadians. The defence team is part of a national response to help minimize the impacts of the pandemic. In a crisis, when civilian capacities are overwhelmed and the CAF are called to assist, we do so in support of civilian authorities to help stabilize the situation in the shorter term, providing time for resources to be put in place as necessary by civilian authorities.
We're capable of conducting simultaneous operations, including responding to COVID-19 and natural disasters, as well as other activities necessary for the defence of Canada and its interests. We continue with our critical tasks right now, such as training and recruiting operations, and we are prioritizing our efforts to ensure we're prepared to provide assistance when asked.
The CAF, as a force resource and trained for its military role in the defence of Canada, is able to support civilian authorities with general duties as well as to provide certain specialized capabilities if and when required. That said, our resources are finite, and CAF assistance is prioritized and managed in scale, scope and duration in close collaboration with federal, provincial and territorial partners. Meanwhile, we rigorously apply public health measures and risk mitigation measures as we implement them.
To date, I guess in response to your question, we haven't received a direct request to support Ontario in long-term care facilities, but we are very closely coordinated within our regional joint task forces with the planning that is happening with respect to the response to the COVID distribution and are providing support to Ontario in other areas, including in their distribution plan for northern and isolated communities.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would like to thank major-generals Fortin and Misener for appearing before us today, despite the important work they do every day.
I assume that your troops and you are proud of the work done, and with good reason. I want to thank you once again for Operation Laser, as Mr. Baker nicely stated earlier, even though he tried to do a bit of politics by talking about your report on Canada-wide long-term care standards. In that report, you point out that there were many standards, but that they were not being met owing to labour shortages. Once again, this proves that the health transfers provinces are calling for must absolutely take place. That's the first thing.
I would now like to ask you how many vaccine doses the Canadian Armed Forces has delivered in Quebec and the provinces so far.
That's right, Madam Chair. This is the result of extensive coordination among the provinces, territories and various stakeholders.
It is important to note, I think, that provinces and territories are used to carrying out an immunization plan for vaccines that are stored at temperatures between 2 degrees Celsius and 8 degrees Celsius, in accordance with their own systems and through the usual distribution networks consisting of pharmacies, private clinics, and so on.
However, the currently approved vaccines are completely new and come with particular requirements that require a centralization of efforts when it comes to purchasing and distribution power. Provinces are invited to closely coordinate their own plans and to align them with what can be supplied.
I also encourage the provinces to go through the federal government as much as possible for distribution, so as to facilitate their own distributions.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I want to join my colleagues in thanking the Canadian Forces for the contribution they've made in the fight against the COVID pandemic, in particular for the assistance they've provided in long-term care homes in Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba, and, of course, General Fortin's team in the distribution of vaccines.
I want to start with a question to General Fortin. However, I'll make some remarks about the context to keep myself from asking would-have, could-have, should-have questions, which are clearly beyond his wheelhouse.
We're in a situation where Canada has lost the capacity to produce vaccines in Canada due to decisions by governments that precede this one. We're also in a situation where we have not provided as strong support for research and development as we could have provided for vaccine development in Canada. Finally, there were discussions last summer about the contracts that we were negotiating. They would include the right to produce vaccines in Canada, or a condition that some of the vaccines be produced in Canada. The was talking about that in August and then walked that back in November. I don't want to ask any of those things of General Fortin.
What I want to ask about is our relationship to the pharmaceutical companies that are providing the vaccine. This morning, AstraZeneca released highly redacted versions of its contract with the EU. That contract says that they will make best reasonable efforts to provide vaccines in the quantities stated in the contract.
General Fortin, is your understanding of these contracts that they are contracts for delivery of vaccines by a certain date or that they are contracts only for best reasonable efforts to deliver vaccines?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I as well want to take the opportunity to thank General Fortin and General Misener for their dedication and commitment to this great country of ours.
I read this morning a report that came out from the Angus Reid poll and basically showed that Canadians' confidence in the government's vaccine plan had declined from 58% to 45% in the past six weeks. That's certainly not a positive trend, and we need to do better. Just 36% of Canadians now say they feel that the federal government has done a good job in securing sufficient doses for the population, and that's down 11 points from December, while the number that says “not so good” has more than doubled.
General, I certainly don't envy the position you are in. I have every confidence in your ability, and I certainly have more than enough confidence in the men and women of our Canadian Armed Forces to deliver every vaccine you are provided. I am very proud to represent CFB Borden, which is in my riding.
I have a few comments that I've also heard from some other individuals here in talking about long-term care homes. There was a bad outbreak in Barrie, just beside me in the next riding over, and one in Bradford as well.
Certainly, the conditions aren't that great, and I think we've learned that over our studies, to show that we can improve upon our seniors' homes, but there is one thing we can do—and we can do now—to help these people. Really, the onus here is that instead of blaming others, we need to have a mirror and look at ourselves. We need vaccines for these people. We can deal with those issues later. That's number one.
My question comes from the calls that I have received this week. There were quite a few because of the area I'm representing. There is concern from a lot of the front-line workers, from the nurses and from whoever is working in the seniors' homes. Some of them have received their first vaccine dose, and now they're waiting for their second. With these backups that we're seeing today, do you know how many people now are waiting for that second dose?
The follow-up question would be this. General, is there a plan for how we're going to deal with the fact that over that time period when people are supposed to get the vaccine if it perhaps goes past that point in time...? Will that change your whole rollout of how you're going to get the vaccines out to people? They'd almost be obsolete, perhaps. I'm curious to know if you could give me some insight into that.
Madam Chair, I thank the member for this question.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is usually not in charge of administering such a large number of vaccines on a national scale. Among its many tasks is the coordination of the arrival and distribution of vaccines in smaller batches. For example, off the top of my head, there were influenza vaccines, for which the biggest campaign was launched this year. We can distribute those vaccines more easily, and the handling is much simpler because they are refrigerated and not frozen.
The logistical challenges are substantial in an unprecedented nationwide operation. In winter time, it is difficult to reach remote communities, northern communities and indigenous communities across the country as quickly and as effectively as possible.
It is in this area that the Canadian Armed Forces, thanks to its organizational power and its capacity to adapt and integrate with other teams, was able to assist the agency for several months, especially since November, to attach itself to the agency and to significantly increase its capacity.
However, this is not a military effort, as it focuses on our expertise and our ability to plan complex operations with the Public Health Agency of Canada team and other partners to adopt a truly whole-of-government approach and manage this major project.
Thank you for your question, Mr. Robillard.
The relationship between the Public Health Agency and the Canadian Armed Forces is a very close relationship as I think, hopefully, you've heard from Major-General Fortin and me. We're closely coordinating and supporting the Public Health Agency's plan.
With respect to the relationships between the provinces and territories, you've heard Major-General Fortin talk about the relationship between the Public Health Agency and the provinces and territories. In parallel, the Canadian Armed Forces, through the regional joint task forces that are arrayed across Canada, maintain close relationships and planning support with the provinces where we are joined up with their vaccine distribution task forces to support their actions. There are great relationships, great collaboration and great planning ongoing so that we're aware of what they are doing and, if required and requested, are able to support what they ask from us.
With respect to our relationship with PSPC, I think it's really more linked to the Public Health Agency of Canada and outside of my operational focus from a Canadian Joint Operations Command perspective.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I have a question now for General Misener. I was happy to hear that apparently those in the Canadian Forces who have contracted COVID have not done so in the workplace, and I raised some questions about this last November.
DND has one of the highest rates of privatization of service contracts anywhere in the federal government; about a third of the personnel costs of DND are for private contractors. Quite often we have heard that those private contractors, the employees, have less access to PPE, and they often have no sick leave or inadequate sick leave, forcing them quite often perhaps to go to work in order to keep food on the table when they should be staying at home.
I would like to ask the same question again. Have measures been taken to reduce the risk to Canadian Forces members and DND employees, with regard to the poorer provisions for those who are working on contract alongside them?
I just want to clarify that before I said I wasn't sure but that, yes, the majority of new CAF cases continue to be due to community recreational exposure or close contact with family members.
Obviously when that has happened, CAF members have been observing appropriate public health measures, as they always are.
The Canadian Armed Forces takes the health and welfare of all of its people very seriously and continuously follows PHMs and the advice of the Surgeon General and, as the situation changes, adjusts the appropriate risk mitigation measures so that we are protecting our force to accomplish our mission.
With respect to private contractors specifically, all I can say is that my experience has been that in any DND facility, PPE and appropriate PHMs are available.
With respect to the sick leave portion of that, I don't have really good visibility of that. If you'd like I could take that question on notice and come back to you with more detail on that.
Again, the complete defence team is very carefully considered, and the health and welfare of that team is important.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Major-General Fortin, Major-General Misener, thank you for joining us, for your testimony and for your service. I would also like to thank the Canadian Armed Forces members under your command.
Major-General Fortin, I have a more specific question for you about your team's role in risk management. In a press release, the Public Health Agency of Canada, or PHAC, stated: “These CAF members will strengthen plans by introducing risk mitigation tools and by facilitating a series of exercises in advance of the roll-out.”
Can you tell us more about those risk management tools? Do they consist solely of mechanisms originating in the military?
More broadly speaking, how does that type of team operate in its daily work?
Thank you very much, Major-General. That's a very useful answer.
Canadians have a high degree of trust in the Canadian Forces. My colleagues have made reference to the role you've played in the operations with respect to COVID, but beyond that, Canadians trust the Canadian Forces. Canadians also trust science and public health authorities, so from the very beginning there's a strong understanding that the complementarity of these two teams can and does add tremendous and essential value to the response to COVID-19.
Could either or both of you tell us specifically what mechanisms are within your reach to protect the most vulnerable in this pandemic? Colleagues have made reference to seniors in long-term care and to indigenous communities. There are other vulnerabilities that will come up, depending on data and demographics.
How nimble is the co-operative, integrated mechanism between PHAC and the Canadian Forces with respect to supporting the most vulnerable in this pandemic?
I will start, and I will ask my colleague to complete my answer with what the CAF is doing in support along those lines.
I can tell you that the agency and my team integrated in the agency are very much following NACI guidance, following the understanding of various tables and the decisions or guidance that come out of various tables, the Canadian immunization committee and the advice of a number of stakeholders.
In the interests of time I'll keep it short, but it's factored into the agreed-to distribution and the prioritization of who receives the vaccine in the provinces and territories, and then the provinces and territories apply this guidance.
In terms of distribution, that step of the operation is agnostic to who receives the vaccine. We distribute, though, on a per capita basis that is adjusted for the remote indigenous areas, and it is adjusted so that in the first quarter the adult populations in the territories have access to vaccines.
In terms of CAF I'll have to turn to General Misener.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to our witnesses.
First of all, once I heard that Major-General Fortin was in charge of the rollout of the vaccines and the distribution, I had absolute confidence. I knew that once you get the vaccines, they will get to where they need to be.
Major-General Misener, I don't know if you're aware of it, but we're blessed to have two Miseners in here today. Your big sister is doing interpretation. We've worked in the defence committee with her before, and she's just a joy to have.
Shortly after Christmas, we were deploying soldiers to Latvia, and there was a report that soldiers already there and scheduled to come home were suffering from COVID. This really upset the family members because they knew that their loved ones had not been vaccinated for COVID.
What measures are being taken for these soldiers who are just getting into theatre to protect them from those who may have already been infected?
Again, I'll re-emphasize a number of my points about the importance of the health and welfare of our personnel, not only in terms of following public health measures and the advice from our surgeon general. Our command surgeon dives deep into each operation to understand the specific requirements of the operation. There are the layered risk mitigation measures that are put in place, the pre-quarantine before people deploy, the special steps that are taken while they're deployed and the post-deployment steps. These are all the things that are happening to mitigate a very dynamic and evolving COVID situation that we continue to monitor very closely.
I can say that, with respect to that particular operation, we speak very regularly with the commander in theatre. The command team has done an amazing job, as have all of the command teams of prior deployed forces, of taking the appropriate actions to mitigate any risks and to support the health and welfare of our members.
Concurrently, we're working with the force generators to ensure that as the situation changes, which it often does in a dynamic situation like this, the families are kept apprised of what is happening with their loved ones and are kept informed, all in the best interest of the health and welfare of our folks, while obviously continuing to carry out our duties and tasks on operations because, in the end, that is what the Canadian Armed Forces do. They deliver on our missions.
In a nutshell, that's how we continue to manage this.
Yes, that's a very good question.
I would summarize it by saying that with CAF members, we are bolstering capacity at the agency in the areas where we bring unique experience and capacity, for instance, organizing operations, information technology. I have a medical adviser. I have a pharmacist who also advises me, a communications team and so on.
We leverage civilian law enforcement agencies in that enterprise. It is not in the mandate of the military police to advise on civilian matters.
In terms of intelligence, there's a clean demarcation where we leverage the non-military security enterprise to look at the different threat scenarios.
I want to thank General Fortin and General Misener for all the work you're doing, including the testimony here today, and through you, the entire defence team, and in particular those who are at the Public Health Agency of Canada, which is, of course, in my riding of Ottawa West—Nepean.
General Fortin, I'd like to follow up on a comment you made earlier. Correct me if I'm not quoting you correctly. Obviously, we know that CAF is incredibly well-suited for this kind of major operation, both in organizational capacity and skills sets. You said you urged the provinces to use the federal coordination capacity. Do you have any indication that there are provinces that may not be asking for or using the full capability that the CAF has to offer?
Thank you for that clarification.
I note there were Canadian Armed Forces personnel in the Public Health Agency of Canada even early this spring. I made a visit there with the and had a chance to speak with some of them.
Could you talk about the long-term presence of CAF since the beginning of this pandemic with the Public Health Agency of Canada, the ability to embed and coordinate well with them, and the specific kind of work you're doing, particularly, in terms of advance planning?
For instance, when did the planning start for this particular rollout of vaccine, and what are you doing now in terms of the planning for when we do start to receive those 20 million doses in the second quarter you referred to?
I don't think I'll have enough time to sufficiently get to the bottom of what we do every day. We can be very proud of the work the team has been doing. Since the winter, the agency has realized the size, scope and impact of the pandemic. For example, CAF provided measures and assistance at the agency in terms of accounting for, receiving and distributing the PPE.
Furthermore, in the summer period, there was a bit less of a presence. In late summer/early fall, it was determined there was going to be a need for specialists to look into the logistical challenges regarding the distribution of millions of vaccines in short order. At the time, it was anticipated the vaccines would arrive, and we would be in a position to distribute as early as January 1.
Of course, we now know, for a number of reasons, we have been able to really build, in a very pragmatic and deliberate way, all the systems, build a national operation centre for vaccine rollout, and build a team at the agency with not only CAF members but also members from other departments and agencies to look at all the facets of the distribution of vaccines.
Thank you very much. That brings our testimony for today to a close.
I want to congratulate our new clerk, Mr. Wassim Bouanani, who at his first meeting is helping us with the defence committee. Welcome, Mr. Clerk.
I would also like to extend my personal thanks, the thanks of all committee members and Canadians as a whole to our very distinguished guests for all of the work you have been doing, and the difference you are making every day in the lives of Canadians.
Thank you for your time today. We know how valuable it is, and we are all very grateful.
The meeting is adjourned.