'The beginning of the end': 1st COVID-19 vaccinations go into arms at Brandon supersite

The first COVID-19 vaccine has been given at Brandon's new vaccine supersite.

Joanna Robb first in line for shot on Monday morning

Joanna Robb, left, was first in line for a COVID-19 vaccination at the Brandon supersite on Monday. (Tim Smith/The Brandon Sun/Pool)

The first COVID-19 vaccine has been given at Brandon's new vaccine supersite. 

"This is a little bit of a surprise," said Joanna Robb, who didn't expect to be first in line. 

Robb is a cytotechnologist who works at Shared Health's Westman Lab, which deals with COVID-19 specimens, making her eligible for the vaccine. 

"There's a worldwide pandemic, and every day I sit at work listening to it, usually the CBC, to the updates, and you hear the death tolls every day and the numbers, and it's heartbreaking," Robb said. "And we can do something."

The site opened at Brandon's Keystone Centre on Monday morning with 21 vaccination tables, plus waiting and recovery areas. It currently can do around 4,000 shots per week, Premier Brian Pallister said after a tour of the site last week. 

The site is slated to give out more than 550 shots on Monday alone, provincial officials say.

WATCH | Manitoba ramps up vaccinations at second supersite:

Brandon's new vaccine supersite

2 years ago
Duration 2:15
Dozens of people lined up at Brandon's Keystone Centre Monday morning, to be first to get their COVID-19 shots. The vaccination supersite is the second one in the province.

Jennifer Cochrane, a pubic health nurse in Virden, Man., has been assigned to give shots at the Brandon site. 

"I am so excited to start to end this pandemic, so I was thrilled to be here today and very willing to be first to give the first immunizations," she said after giving the first three shots. 

"I am terribly excited and a huge advocate of this program. I do believe this is the beginning of the end."

Kirsten Boyce, who also works at Westman Lab, was second in line.

"It was probably one of the best vaccinations I've ever had," Boyce said.

"I'm so happy to be able to be part of this."

Robert Farquar of Westman Lab gets vaccinated by Jennifer Cochrane, a public health nurse, on Monday morning in Brandon. (Tim Smith/The Brandon Sun/Pool)

Robert Farquar is looking forward to a sense of normalcy in the coming months. 

"It would be so nice," said Farquar, who works in hematology and at the blood bank in the Westman Lab. 

"This is the first step to that route and … I hope that this nightmare kind of ends soon."

Texts sent with wrong address

However, late Friday night the province said supply issues with the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, which both the Brandon and Winnipeg supersites stock, will "significantly scale back operations" at the supersites for the time being. 

The Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine shortage will also delay the opening of two vaccination sites in Thompson, Man. 

The dampening of supply isn't the only hiccup the site has faced — even before its opening. 

Over the weekend, appointment reminder texts were sent with an incorrect address to 558 people with vaccination appointments at the Keystone Centre on Monday.

The texts told people that they would receive their vaccines at Winnipeg's RBC Convention Centre, instead of at the Brandon site. 

"The human error was quickly addressed by a followup text," a provincial spokesperson told CBC News by email on Sunday night. 

The spokesperson said the province is conducting a review to ensure the third-party service provider is held accountable and that the mistake does not occur again. People with appointments are asked to keep them as scheduled.

It's the second time such an error has been made. 

Twenty-one COVID-19 vaccine immunization stations were set up in one of the Brandon immunization rooms at the Keystone Centre last week to immunize health-care workers. (Ron Boileau/Radio-Canada )

Earlier this month, the province said a communication error saw 871 people with vaccination appointments at the RBC Convention Centre receive texts with incorrect location information.

That error was also quickly fixed.

The Brandon supersite is open 12 hour per day, seven days a week, for eligible health-care workers. 


Riley Laychuk


Riley Laychuk is a news anchor and reporter for CBC News in Winnipeg. He was previously based at CBC's bureau in Brandon for six years, covering stories focused on rural Manitoba. Share your story ideas, tips and feedback: