Boosting Manitoba's COVID-19 vaccination rates key to 4th wave response: Dr. Roussin

Manitoba's chief public health officer says he'll speak on the push to increase vaccine uptake in the province and address the province's mask recommendation at a news conference on Tuesday.

Doctors Manitoba issues call to make vaccines mandatory in health-care, other sectors

Doctors Manitoba is calling for COVID-19 vaccine requirements in a variety of sectors in order to ward off the worst of a delta variant-driven fourth wave. (Jeff J. Mitchell/AFP/Getty Images)

Dr. Roussin says he supports any measure to increase the number of Manitobans fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and calls mandatory vaccine policies in health care a "reasonable approach."

"What we know about the vaccine it's safe and effective and it's the key change to our response to this fourth wave," he said at a news conference on Tuesday.

The province has been working with community leaders in areas where vaccine uptake is low to try to boost the number of people who choose to get the shot.

Some groups continue to be reluctant, though. Roussin says employers could have a role to play by pushing vaccines in the workplace.

Dr. Brent Roussin and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister will hold a news conference on Tuesday. They're expected to speak about vaccine uptake and mask use. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

"If you're an employer who's dealt with cases in the past and had outbreaks in the past, this is your chance to really reduce that impact," he said.

"I'm supportive of things we can do to get people to be vaccinated."

Roussin hinted that he'd address more ways to increase uptake — which could include mandatory vaccines in certain sectors — as well as mask use at a news conference with the premier on Tuesday.

"What we've predicted is that we're going to see a fourth wave and we're going to see a fourth wave dominated by cases in the unvaccinated. And so one is we want to do whatever we can to decrease the pool of unvaccinated Manitobans," he said.

Doctors call for mandatory vaccines

This comes as Doctors Manitoba issued a news release on Monday morning calling on the health-care system and other sectors to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory as the threat of the highly contagious delta variant looms.

"When you consider the threat posed by COVID-19 compared to how safe and effective the vaccines are, requiring employee immunization is a necessary next step," said Dr. Kristjan Thompson, the president of Doctors Manitoba, in a news release on Monday.

"This must be a requirement in health care, where it is all workers' duty to protect the health of their patients."

Doctors Manitoba is also calling on other employers to strongly consider a mandatory vaccine policy to keep their staff and the public safe in light of a delta wave on the horizon.

Public health experts warn COVID-19 cases will skyrocket with the delta variant, as scientists estimate delta is spreading roughly 50 per cent faster than the alpha variant, which was 50 per cent more contagious than the original virus strain. (Marta Lavandier/The Associated Press)

This not only includes public sector employers like schools, universities and correctional facilities, but also private sector employers in manufacturing, food production, service industries and other higher risk environments, Thompson said.

"No one should be forced to accept any medical intervention, and that includes a COVID-19 vaccine. When that choice risks other people's lives, however, it should come with repercussions," Thompson said in the release.

'Lots of room for a major surge'

Scientists estimate delta is spreading roughly 50 per cent faster than the alpha variant, which was 50 per cent more contagious than the original virus strain, according to the Yale School of Public Health.

That increased infection rate is why it's so important for people to be vaccinated, says Dr. Anand Kumar, an intensivist at Health Sciences Centre and professor of medical microbiology at the University of Manitoba.

Public health officials said previously that herd immunity would be reached when about 75 per cent of the population is vaccinated against COVID-19 — but that was before the alpha variant came into the picture, and well before delta.

Kumar says many more people need to be vaccinated, and that may only happen if there are policies in place.

"We don't get significant community protection probably until we're at 85 or 90 per cent of the entire population, [not just eligible Manitobans]. Right now we're at 65 per cent of our entire population. So we have lots of room for a major surge to occur. Lots of room for a major hit to our health-care system, our hospital and ICU capacity," he said.

Kumar says there are vaccine mandates for other infectious diseases like measles, which you need to be vaccinated against to go to school in Ontario and New Brunswick, and which you used to need in Manitoba as well.

"The idea of mandates for vaccines is certainly something that's well accepted and has been accepted for decades in the country."

Doctors Manitoba says that although the mandate should be in place for the majority of workers, steps should be taken to protect the very few people who can't be vaccinated for legitimate reasons, Thompson said.

That could include frequent testing, continued use of personal protective equipment and possible relocation to be physically distanced from the public and other workers.

As of Monday, 81.4 per cent of eligible Manitobans have had their first dose of the vaccine and 75.5 per cent have had both, the province's online vaccine dashboard says.


  • A previous version of this story stated Anand Kumar said measles vaccines are necessary to go to school. In fact, this is required in two other provinces and is no longer required in Manitoba.
    Aug 23, 2021 8:46 PM CT

With files from Radio-Canada's Julien Sahuquillo