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Ottawa preparing to hire COVID-19 vaccine distributors for early possible rollout starting in January

The Canadian government is offering up an early but tantalizing glimmer of hope for a potential coronavirus vaccine that could begin to be rolled out in the next three to five months.

A notice on the government’s contracting site invites interested firms to essentially pre-qualify as part of a procurement process that is expected to lead to contracts for delivering and storing the vaccine.

The invitation to qualify is effectively a way for the government to narrow down interest before issuing contracts and selecting bidders, which officials say they plan to do by the end of this month.

According to the wording of the notice, the government is looking for one or more companies “to deliver a broad range of end-to-end logistics and support services, on an as and when required basis, for the execution of its COVID-19 vaccine logistics strategy.”

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Most of this work, it goes on to state, would be related to the safe management and quick distribution of the vaccines, including to remote and isolated communities.

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Suppliers looking to get the work must prove they’re able to deploy across the country within 48 hours in the event of an emergency requiring mass rollout and distribution.

The notice also provides a glimpse into the timeline the government envisions for when the very first vaccines might be available — though it’s important to stress that officials have repeatedly said that any vaccine rollout will likely need to be phased, with priority for frontline workers and vulnerable people.

“It is anticipated that vaccines will be available from manufacturers in a phased manner beginning in the first quarter of 2021 and continuing through 2022,” the notice states.

The first quarter of 2021, the government confirmed, refers to January to March 2021.

Suppliers must be able to start work by Dec. 15, 2020, to prepare for those plans.

The notice also notes that security will be paramount and that the vaccines could potentially be targeted by criminals given their significant value.

“COVID-19 vaccines must be safeguarded at all times as high value assets and high value targets for criminal elements,” the government notes.

Throughout recent months, the world has seen cases of what’s been referred to as “modern piracy” as individuals and countries attempt to pillage and/or fraudulently sell vital protective gear.

The United States came under fire in April for swooping in to outbid allies with signed deals, and amid reports masks made abroad by American companies with contracts to other countries were being confiscated before they could be shipped to their purchasers.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has likened the global race for supplies to the “Wild West.”

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