The federal government has awarded a $16-million contract to firm Deloitte to “manage vaccine rollout, administration and reporting,”

The federal government has awarded a $16-million contract to accounting firm Deloitte to “manage vaccine rollout, administration and reporting,” even as hundreds of thousands of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have already been administered.

In December, Ottawa sent out a request for proposals from a shortlist of suppliers, asking for a system that could track doses en route from their manufacturer, manage their storage conditions, and monitor possible, albeit rare, adverse reactions.

As The Globe and Mail reported at the time, the request for proposals laid out an expansive system that was “mission critical” to the vaccination campaign.

In an interview with CBC’s Rosemary Barton on Sunday, Procurement Minister Anita Anand acknowledged the contract had been awarded, and said it is “critical to understanding who got vaccinated, where they got vaccinated, all that kind of information.”

At the same time, the government has said its existing information technology systems are up to the job. “The Public Health Agency of Canada does have an IT [information technology] system in place that is being used in conjunction with the provinces and territories at the current time,” Ms. Anand said.

While she did not say what gaps currently exist, she added the system is necessary to “ensure that we have the most seamless IT system possible as we go through this complex period in our country’s history.”

The government did not provide a date as to when the new system would be online. Ottawa, in the original request for proposals, hoped that a “minimum viable product” would need to be online “during January, 2021, or a modified date to be mutually agreed.”

Iris Gorfinkel, a family doctor in Toronto, wrote an article in August calling attention to Canada’s lack of vaccine-tracking technology. Canada, she wrote, needs a system that can follow vaccines like Walmart tracks inventory. “Using bar codes has been shown to save time, improve user experience, simplify documentation, reduce transcription errors and would create robust and comprehensive [vaccine registries],” Dr. Gorfinkel wrote.

More than five months on, Dr. Gorfinkel said hiring Deloitte to build this new system shows “the federal government is moving in the right direction.” But, she added, “this should have been done months ago.”

Originally published at The Globe and Mail