Head of Ontario's COVID-19 vaccine rollout leaving this month despite millions still waiting for shot
TORONTO -- The head of Ontario's COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force will leave the role at the end of March as planned, just as the province's vaccination plan enters its most crucial phase.
Retired General Rick Hiller's $20,000-a-month appointment comes to an end on Mar. 31 and is not being extended, despite an offer by Premier Doug Ford to continue on in the role.
"We only get to keep him for a couple of more weeks," Ford told reporters at a news conference on Monday. "I tried to get him to renew it, but as he said 'Doug I did the job I came for, and we got everything set up.'"
Government sources, speaking on background, said Hillier's primary objective was to set up the infrastructure required to administer the vaccine and noted that Hillier feels his mission has been "accomplished."
Hillier's departure, however, comes as the province is transitioning to the second phase of its vaccine delivery plan -- with nine million people scheduled to receive their first shot of the vaccine.
Once Hillier leaves the position, the government said the existing vaccine distribution task force will be called on when necessary to provide advice to provincial bureaucrats, the Solicitor General and the Minister of Health.
Ford suggested that public health units will use the existing blueprint "to take the bull by the horns and run with it."
Hillier's tenure was met with criticisms over minor controversies during the initial stages of the vaccine rollout.
As chair of the taskforce, Hillier was forced to ramp up the delivery mechanism in December in just thirteen days after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was expectedly approved and delivered to Canada.
Weeks later, Hillier offered an apology after pausing vaccinations during Christmas, allowing healthcare workers to take a much needed break.
The task force also faced other questions about queue jumping, prioritizations, reservation of second doses, delegation of responsibilities to Public Health Units and confusion over the vaccine roll out strategy.
Still, the Premier's Office expressed confidence in Hillier giving him credit for Ontario's capacity to administer 150,000 daily doses of the vaccine.