British Columbia

RCMP working with B.C. health officials to protect against efforts to sabotage immunization programs

B.C.'s provincial health officer said Thursday there has been a "concerted effort" to sabotage international immunization programs against COVID-19, and that the province is coordinating with RCMP to ensure vaccination efforts are not interfered with.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said global and federal bodies have warned against efforts to tamper with vaccinations

Because the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, as well as the Moderna vaccine, use mRNA technology, they needs to be stored at very cold temperatures. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

B.C.'s provincial health officer said Thursday there has been a "concerted effort" to sabotage international immunization programs against COVID-19, and that the province is coordinating with RCMP to ensure safe transport of the vaccine.

RCMP confirmed in a statement that they are working with the Ministry of Health, but said they could not elaborate on what role they are playing for operational reasons.

The federal government has previously announced that the Canadian Armed Forces would also play a role in the distribution of vaccines across Canada.

Dr. Bonnie Henry made the remarks during Thursday's news conference on the latest COVID-19 numbers in the province, saying she has been briefed by federal authorities and bodies outside of Canada.

"It's really around information that we've received internationally and through Canadian agencies — that there has been a concerted effort to try to interrupt the cold chain, for example, to sabotage immunization programs," she said.

"We all need to make sure that we are taking appropriate cautions to make sure that it is safe and make sure that it is not tampered with during that whole process."

Interpol, an international organization that facilitates worldwide police cooperation, has issued an alert, warning that vaccine shipments could be targeted "physically and online."

"As governments are preparing to roll out vaccines, criminal organizations are planning to infiltrate or disrupt supply chains," read the statement in part.

Complications around the cold chain

Temperature-controlled supply chains are referred to as a "cold chain." 

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine needs to be stored at very cold temperatures.

The Pfizer shot must be stored at temperatures between –80 C and –60 C, while Moderna says its vaccine can survive a month in the fridge and can be stored for months at regular freezer temperatures of –20 C.

Henry said support from organizations like the RCMP is also needed to ensure security around the large freezers needed to transport the thousands of doses that will soon be shipped across Canada.

"They're not small — so we want to make sure that we have the proper precautions in place so that people are able to come and go freely and that we're taking all the measures to handle the vaccine safely," said Henry.

The province has so far identified nine sites at which the vaccine can be delivered, and plans on identifying 30 in the near future. The location of those sites has not been disclosed.

On Wednesday, the province said it aims to have 400,000 people — just under 10 per cent of B.C.'s population — vaccinated by the end of March. 

Nearly 4,000 doses of the vaccine are set to arrive in B.C. in the coming days and will be distributed to long-term care home workers in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health regions.

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