Manitoba launches flu clinics amid COVID-19 pandemic
'It has never been more important for Manitobans to get the flu shot'
The annual flu vaccination program in Manitoba started Thursday while the province also faces the worst stretch so far in its COVID-19 pandemic battle.
"This year's been like no other. It has never been more important for Manitobans to get the flu shot," Premier Brian Pallister said as he formally launched the program and received his shot from Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer.
"Manitobans have a long and proud history of taking care of each other and facing our challenges together. That is what the flu vaccine does — it protects each of us, and it protects our family, friends and fellow Manitobans.
"I encourage all Manitobans, especially those at increased risk, their caregivers and close family and friends to get the flu shot this fall."
Roussin recommends everyone six months of age and older get the vaccine as early in the fall as possible.
Regional health authorities will soon begin immunization clinics. A full list of the clinic locations and dates is available on the Manitoba government website.
The province reported a record-setting 146 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. It was the second consecutive day with a new record number — and the fourth in a week.
The flu program is being announced as other provinces worry about vaccine supplies running out.
Ontario health-care providers, from family physicians to hospital workers, have documented a surge in demand and expressed concerns that limited supplies will rapidly dry up.
Roussin expects a similar spike in demand in Manitoba, not just from the general public but also because the 2020-21 campaign is targeting those most vulnerable and their caregivers, with specific outreach to the health-care sector and the public service.
As a result, the province boosted its vaccination order by 20 per cent over a typical year. Right now, 150,000 doses are making their way into clinics and doctors' offices, Roussin said.
A record 26.3 per cent of Manitobans got the shot last year and Roussin is expecting that number to reach into the high 30s this time around, so enough dosages were ordered tp vaccinate 40 per cent of the population.
The full provincial vaccine allotment is expected to arrive over the next several weeks, barring any external supply or delivery disruptions.
In addition to the provincial clinics, vaccines can be administered by physicians and pharmacists, although the latter can only immunize those seven years of age or older. A physician must vaccinate children age six months to seven years.
The annual vaccination campaign's slogan takes into account the COVID-19 situation with images of a face mask, mittens and the flu shot needle, alongside the tag line "Add a layer this fall."
WATCH | Manitoba launches flu clinics amid COVID-19 pandemic:
The province has also nearly doubled its order of the high-dose flu vaccine and expanded the eligibility criteria so more seniors can get access.
The high-dose vaccine offers more of an immune boost than the regular vaccine and was previously offered only to those at least 65 years old who were residents of long-term care facilities, clients in interim or transitional care beds, respite care clients or unimmunized residents admitted to long-term care facilities during the flu season.
This year, people 65 and older who meet one of the following criteria are also eligible:
- Residents of supportive and assisted living housing.
- Those who are newly incarcerated or transferred from other federal or out-of-province correctional facilities.
- Those receiving home care services while on a waiting list for admission into a long-term care facility.
- Those living on a First Nation or in a remote or isolated community.
- Those living north of the 53rd parallel.
As a result, the province has nearly doubled its order of that vaccine to 21,500 doses, up from 11,500 last year.
But Wab Kinew, Leader of the Opposition NDP, said the Pallister government should have made the high-dose flu vaccine available to all seniors, period.
"Prairie Mountain Health's appointment system for flu clinics is already overwhelmed with calls from concerned people wanting to protect themselves and loved ones," Kinew said.
"As we head into flu season, the health minister needs to offer high-dose flu vaccines free of charge to all Manitoba seniors as we work to flatten the curve and keep families safe."