SUDBURY -- Public Health Sudbury and Districts says it is busy planning for the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine at some point now that Health Canada has approved the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine and several others are undergoing federal review.

The area's chief medical officer, Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, said two initial meetings have already been held to discuss things like vaccine storage, delivery, distribution as well as issues surrounding geography, accessibility and equity.

"Although many aspects of vaccine planning and rollout are still evolving, it is not too early to plan for implementation. We want our communities to benefit from the vaccine the moment it is available locally—to do this we need to be prepared," said Sutcliffe. "This is a huge undertaking and it will require the partnership of many in the health system and beyond. The success of the vaccination program will rely on the coordinated actions of many key players."

Sudbury's hospital, Health Sciences North (HSN), has been identified by the province as a potential site for the vaccine storage and distribution.

"Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have engaged closely with our partners at Public Health Sudbury & Districts. This latest phase of the pandemic response is no different and together we will all ensure a proactive local response and a comprehensive plan for our communities," said Dominic Giroux, president and CEO of HSN. "We are fortunate to have close working relationships with provincial partners to help inform our local vaccine planning and rollout. This is a large, coordinated effort and one that can’t be done alone."

Public health said several vaccines have been submitted to Health Canada for approval and the federal agency is responsible for reviewing and approving the safety and efficacy.

"Health measures, such as wearing a face covering and practising physical distancing, will still be required following the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines until more is known about how the vaccine protects against asymptomatic spread," the health unit said in a news release Friday morning.

The vaccine is expected to be delivered in phases and who gets the vaccines first will be determined by the province, regions with the highest rates of COVID-19 infections will be prioritized.