Manitoba could vaccinate everyone by end of April if feds gave enough doses, task force says

With planned expansions to vaccination clinics and staffing, Manitoba could deliver both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to every eligible person in the province by the end of April, but it would need an additional 1.8 million doses to do it, members of the provincial task force said Wednesday.

Still 1 month later than premier's claim that every eligible Manitoban could be vaccinated by end of March

Dr. Brian Penner receives the first COVID-19 inoculation in Manitoba from LoriAnn Laramee, a public health nurse, at the Health Sciences Centre on Dec. 16, 2020. Under its current plans, the province expects to average 2,500 vaccinations per day by the end of February. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Every Manitoban who wants the COVID-19 vaccine could get it by the end of April if the province had enough doses, members of the provincial task force said Wednesday — falling one month short of a claim made last week by Premier Brian Pallister.

With planned expansions to vaccination clinics and staffing, Manitoba could deliver both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to every eligible person in the province by the end of April, but it would need an additional 1.8 million doses to do it.

"With a substantial expansion and with the existing applications that we've received, we could expand to the point of reaching all Manitobans by the end of April," said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical officer of health for Manitoba Health and a member of the vaccine implementation task force.

As of Wednesday, Manitoba had received 28,080 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 7,300 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

Under its current plans to scale up vaccinations, based on the number of doses Manitoba expects to receive from the federal government, the province expects to average 1,563 doses per day through January, reaching 2,500 per day through February. 

An immunization rollout plan published by the province projects about 70 per cent of Manitobans will receive two doses of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine by the end of 2021.

Members of the province's vaccine implementation task force presented the data to members of the media during a technical briefing on Wednesday.

Last week, Premier Brian Pallister said every Manitoban could get vaccinated by the end of March, if the federal government provided enough doses. 

Manitoba has lagged behind other Canadian provinces in getting out the doses it has received from the federal government. As of Wednesday, the province had administered 12,409 of the 35,380 vaccine doses it has received — or 35 per cent of its supply.

Among the 10 provinces, only Nova Scotia has used a smaller percentage (28 per cent) of the doses it has received.

Of those given out so far in Manitoba, 10,749 are first doses and 1,660 are second doses.

More than enough staff, province says

The province opened its first vaccination supersite at RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg last week. A second vaccination centre is set to open next week at the Keystone Centre in Brandon, and a third will open in Thompson on Feb. 1. 

More than 1,600 full-time-equivalent staff, including 801 immunizers, have been recruited to work at the vaccination sites and on the province's focused immunization teams. There are also plans for pop-up vaccination sites, which would operate in government facilities, as well remote and isolated communities.

The province released details on how it plans to staff each of the sites, and how many doses are expected to be administered at each. 

The RBC Convention Centre will have 92 full-time-equivalent staff, including 39 immunizers, with a capacity to deliver 1,273 doses per day. Keystone Centre will have 44 staff, including 18 immunizers, giving 603 daily doses. 

Thompson's Vaxport site will have eight immunizers, performing 200 daily vaccinations.

Immunizers at both the Winnipeg and Brandon sites are expected to do up to 7.5 vaccinations per hour, which the province considers a modest pace, taking into account the different experience levels of individual immunizers. 

Reimer says the province has made sure it has more staff on hand than it needs at any given time.

"At some point, more vaccine products will probably be approved and we need to be prepared to very quickly ramp up and expand in new ways," she said.

In the early stages, the province has drawn its vaccination workforce from its existing pool of health-care workers. Eventually, it hopes to have those workers train new staff before resuming their original roles.

Expanded eligibility

Premier Brian Pallister and Health Minister Heather Stefanson took a tour of the new supersite in Brandon on Wednesday.

The centre is expected to vaccinate 4,100 health workers in its first week, with the capacity to expand as more vaccine doses become available. 

Pallister encouraged people to keep applying to work at the centres to keep up with the expected demand. 

"We have the need for folks to come forward ... and add their name to the list," he said. "We've got lots of preparation that's underway and we want to be ready in case we do have the federal government give us more vaccines."

Immunization teams started heading to personal care homes on Monday. So far, 120 residents have been vaccinated, and the province expects 1,150 will get the vaccine by the end of the week. 

On Wednesday, the province announced it had expanded the categories of front-line workers eligible to get the vaccine. Staff working in congregate group-care settings who provide direct care to people in Community Living disABILITY Services, Child and Family Services, homeless shelters and family violence shelters are now eligible.


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