Manitoba offers $1M in grants to boost COVID-19 vaccine uptake among the hesitant

Manitoba has set aside $1 million for grants of up to $20,000 that groups can use to reach out to people hesitant about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

Research suggests government exhausting its ability to reach certain groups, so it is asking others for help

Manitoba is looking at ways to reach out to individuals and communities that remain hesitant about getting a COVID-19 vaccine. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba has set aside $1 million for grants of up to $20,000 that groups can use to reach out to people hesitant about getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

The grants will be available to cultural, arts, education, sports, religious, community and business organizations that can prove they have the ability to reach vaccine hesitant people.

"We need Manitobans to continue to do two things: get a vaccine as soon as possible and follow the public health orders," Premier Brian Pallister said on Thursday.

"The quicker we do these two things, the faster we beat COVID."

Provincial research has suggested the government is beginning to exhaust its ability to reach certain groups, so the messaging needs to come from other sources, he said.

"We know, from our research and from the clinical leaders in our province, that there are thousands of Manitobans who are open to getting a vaccine but have yet to get one," Pallister said.

"They need support in that decision. They need support from you. They need support from people they know. They need support from people they trust."

WATCH | Pallister on plan to reach vaccine-hesitant Manitobans:

Premier Brian Pallister on plan to build vaccine confidence among people who are hesitant

8 months ago
Duration 0:52
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said Thursday there is a small group of Manitobans who say they will never get a vaccine for any reason, but the province hopes to build confidence among others who are hesitant. The province will spend $1 million on grants for groups to reach out to people who are hesitant about getting a COVID-19 vaccine. 0:52

Pallister said he and Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin can urge people as much as possible, but at some point, it doesn't resonate anymore with certain groups.

"But people in our communities know their friends, and they're influential," he said.

The application process for the grants will open soon but first the government wants to provide information sessions to interested organizations to explain what is expected. Registration for those sessions will begin right away at and applicants will be asked to identify if they are interested in hosting or partnering on a pop-up clinic.

The outreach work by the organizations will be done from June to September.

"Until very recently, our Number 1 limiting factor in protecting Manitobans was vaccine supply. But now, as we approach nearly 70 per cent of eligible Manitobans vaccinated, our challenge is to reach the other 30 per cent who, for various reasons, have chosen not to get vaccinated to this point," Pallister said.

Research by the province suggests there are very few anti-vaccine people in Manitoba — about two per cent of the population.

The rest are vaccine hesitant for various reasons, be it language barriers, cultural or religious concerns or wanting to know more about the science, or they're just unable to get to a vaccine site.

(Manitoba government)

One study, by Prairie Research, found 87 per cent of respondents were keen to be vaccinated or are already, while five per cent were not in a rush, another five per cent were unsure if they would get a vaccine, and four per cent stated they would not.

Those on the fence need to be reached, Pallister said. He wants to bring the vaccination rate closer to 80 or 90 per cent.

"These variants are fast, fast-acting and dangerous. And we have to be aiming higher," he said.

"These numbers are achievable but they're going to require hard work, they're going to require focused effort, and I believe they're going to require community effort."

If the province can only reach a 70 per cent vaccination rate, that leaves 400,000 Manitobans unprotected "and we're looking at a fourth wave," Pallister said.

Health districts with the lowest vaccination rates in the province include Stanley (13.5 per cent), Winkler (26.2 per cent), Hanover (30.6 per cent) and Altona (38.3 per cent).

A vaccine incentive program for individuals was first raised by Pallister in mid-May and promised to be unveiled at the end of last week, but is still not in place.

But Pallister said on Thursday he will have more to say on that next week, when Manitoba will be announcing its reopening strategy.

It would have been incongruous to make an announcement last week when the province was experiencing some of the worst numbers of the third wave, he said.

WATCH | Manitoba to pay organizations to help get the province vaccinated:

Manitoba to pay organizations to help get the province vaccinated

8 months ago
Duration 1:13
Manitoba is offering grants of up to $20,000 to organizations that can help boost vaccination numbers in communities that have had low uptake. 1:13

The province has studied the idea of offering cash incentives to individuals who get a shot, but research suggested Manitobans don't like the idea of some people getting something that others can't get.

However, Pallister said he isn't ruling those out in the future.

He also suggested that some incentives could come in the form of exclusive benefits, such as only allowing vaccinated people into certain places such as a personal care home.

"None of us want to see divisions within our society — among our friends and neighbours — based on this issue, but we have to have public safety as the first priority," Pallister said, but adamantly ruled out ever making vaccinations mandatory. "It may be, as an interim measure to reopen, that we give extra advantage … to people who can prove they've been vaccinated.

"To not give these benefits is to say that all of us have to be in lockdown until everyone is vaccinated, and I don't think that's a realistic model for us to follow."

Asked if there would be anything coming for those who already got their vaccines and did everything the government has asked of them, Pallister said there certainly would be: "It's called security and a better, healthy life."

Take-a-seat campaign

The province has also launched a campaign to encourage vaccinations by highlighting the things people will be able to do once they are fully immunized.

A soft launch of the campaign included advertising on tarps around the lower bowl of Bell MTS Place during Jets games. 

"Miss these seats? Get vaccinated," the ads say.

The expanded campaign uses community leaders urging people to get their shot so they can "take their seats" in restaurants, theatres and festivals and once again enjoy the activities and places that have been off limits.

"Manitobans have told us that getting back to the things they love is one of the biggest incentives to getting vaccinated, and we're going to reinforce that through this public awareness campaign," Pallister said.

Reaching homeless, less mobile

On Wednesday, health officials announced other strategies to reach people who haven't received their first dose, primarily due to the inability to get to the provincial vaccination supersites.

Mobile outreach vans, house calls and community-hosted clinics are being launched to bring the vaccines closer to those people.

The mobile clinics will start this week in the inner city, focusing on those experiencing homeless. Community-hosted clinics aimed at reaching ethnic groups who might have been deterred from visiting large supersites due to language issues will also start soon.

The province is also expanding a pilot project that made mRNA vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — available at some medical clinics and pharmacies to provide first and second doses to people. 

WATCH | Manitoba looks at ways to reach individuals hesitant about getting vaccinated:

Manitoba looks at ways to reach individuals hesitant about getting vaccinated

8 months ago
Duration 2:04
Manitoba has set aside $1 million for grants of up to $20,000 that groups can use to reach out to people hesitant about getting a COVID-19 vaccine. 2:04

A total of 5,000 mRNA doses are being delivered this week to about 25 partners.

The province will also lean more on hospitals, personal care homes, correctional facilities and home care to order and administer vaccine doses based on needs.

More details were promised but plans will likely include home visits, officials said Wednesday.


Darren Bernhardt


Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, first at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories. He is the author of award-nominated and bestselling The Lesser Known: A History of Oddities from the Heart of the Continent.


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