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The Canadian government is seeking logistics providers to distribute millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines, including one that has to be kept at minus 80 degrees Celsius (minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit).

Details of the logistics effort emerged in a tender notice posted on behalf of the Public Health Agency of Canada on Monday. It came as COVID-19 infection rates surge across the country. 

The Canadian government has secured access to up to 358 million doses of multiple candidate vaccines for COVID-19. But another challenge altogether is getting them to 38 million Canadians regardless of whether they live in major cities like Toronto or remote regions such as Nunavut. 

Interested companies need to be able to pick up the frozen vaccines sourced from up to seven international manufacturers to “safely and accurately store, manage, account for, warehouse, track & trace, data-log and distribute” by air and road to multiple locations, according to the notice

The government also is moving quickly to select the logistics providers. It intends to award a contract to one or more companies by Nov. 23. The logistics providers selected will have to demonstrate their ability to perform the work by Dec. 15.

Canada has hedged its bets by securing agreements to buy multiple vaccine candidates from AstraZeneca, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, Novovax, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Medicago, and Moderna. The logistics providers need to be ready to handle any of them as deliveries come in 2021.

Some of those vaccines have very specific requirements with “unique and complex technical specifications that demand time-sensitive transportation, storage, management, handling and distribution” in ultracold, frozen, and cold chains ranging from minus 80 degrees Celsius (-112 degrees Fahrenheit) to 8 degrees Celsius (46 degrees Fahrenheit). 

Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine procurement echoes its global effort to secure personal protective equipment and medical supplies across the world, facing competition from countries including the U.S. 

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