Large pop-up clinic considered for Winnipeg as variant cases rise
New supersite announced for Steinbach expected to open in May
Manitobans will see fewer pop-up vaccination clinics in remote and rural areas as the province tries to move more doses through supersites and large temporary clinics in places like Winnipeg.
Johanu Botha, co-lead of Manitoba's vaccine implementation task force, said at a technical briefing Wednesday that smaller clinics will not disappear completely, but the new strategy will get more shots into arms faster as the province enters its third wave of the pandemic.
"I do anticipate us seeing fewer of them, and the ones that we do see will be larger in nature and probably serve areas where we're seeing faster spread, like the city," he said.
The large temporary vaccine clinics, expected to be set up next week, would provide between 8,800 and 12,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine that would be re-purposed from previously planned pop-up sites and mobile immunization teams.
Delays in two shipments of the Moderna vaccine forced the province to postpone clinics scheduled for 18 communities from April 12 to 15. A third shipment of 42,000 doses scheduled for next week has also been delayed.
The province is in the process of deciding the locations of the next round of pop-up clinics.
WATCH | Johanu Botha on plan to temporarily reduce vaccine pop-up clinics:
The province lowered the age of eligibility for the vaccine on Wednesday to 59 for all Manitobans and 39 for First Nations people.
Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead on the task force, said at a news conference Wednesday that a team of experts is in the process of determining whether any other groups should be made eligible for the vaccine.
Some possible changes the team of doctors, nurses and epidemiologists have been asked to consider include expanding eligibility for people living in areas with higher transmission rates, as well as making more people eligible to receive the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.
"We have seen in Wave 2, and are starting to see in Wave 3 as well, that certain parts of the province, certain geographic areas, are at higher risk of transmission generally and at higher risk of the severe outcomes," Reimer said.
"We're asking that team to come up with a plan for how we best reach the people at highest risk, and they are working out the details of that as we speak."
Currently, AstraZeneca-Oxford is available to people ages 55 to 64, with certain health conditions, as well as people 65 and older without any health requirements. Of the 84,100 doses Manitoba has received, about 22,000 have been administered.
Some Manitoba pharmacies have a glut of AstraZeneca vaccine on hand.
"We've run through all the patients who are eligible for the vaccine and we are literally calling everybody who is eligible right now," said Tim Smith, a pharmacist in Miami, Man., who is also on the board for Pharmacists Manitoba.
"There is a lot of vaccine hesitancy, as well as clients who are receiving their first dose through a supersite."
Reimer would not commit to expanding eligibility to include people 55 and older without conditions. Instead, the province will wait while the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations reviews its guidelines, which are expected to be released soon, she said.
The team is also analyzing available data to determine whether certain categories of essential workers should be made eligible for the vaccine.
The province also has plans to set up pop-up clinics specifically to vaccinate people experiencing homelessness, Reimer said.
WATCH | Dr. Joss Reimer says Manitoba is working to 'fine-tune' vaccine eligibility criteria:
Supersite in Steinbach
A new supersite will open in Steinbach sometime in May at the Royal Canadian Legion at 294 Lumber Ave. It will be the second supersite to open in the Southern Health region.
The vaccination campaign update comes the day after the province reported its second COVID-19 death tied to a more contagious coronavirus variant.
Health officials also reported Tuesday the first identification of a variant case in the province's north.
That news came one day after Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin suggested more restrictions could be coming soon in an attempt to stem the spread of variants and slow other rising numbers.
On Wednesday, Manitoba's five-day test-positivity rate was 5.3 per cent, down from six per cent the day before. The seven-day average for daily new cases is about 128, compared with 78 two weeks ago.
Manitoba health workers administered another 8,662 vaccinations Tuesday, bringing the total to 299,821.
Shipments of Pfizer vaccines may exceed projections starting in early May, which would allow for a surge in supersite vaccinations, Botha said.
Current projections put administration of doses at 9,000 a day by the first week of May, not including doses administered by First Nations or through medical clinics and pharmacies.
With files from Bartley Kives