Here's what you need to know about Manitoba's AstraZeneca vaccine rollout

Manitobans with certain health conditions are now eligible to book an appointment to get the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine. Here's the latest on what we know about the province's plan to dole out the shots.

Province has received 18K doses, which will be delivered to clinics, pharmacies starting Thursday

A health-care worker holds up a dose of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine. Manitoba's plan to dole out that vaccine includes younger people with certain high-risk conditions. (Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press)

Some Manitobans with high-risk health conditions are now eligible to book an appointment to get the newly arrived COVID-19 vaccine developed by British drug maker AstraZeneca and Oxford University.

Health officials in the province previously said the approval of that shot would help speed up Manitoba's vaccine rollout. That's because it's cheaper and easier to handle than other already approved immunizations, which need to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures.

Since the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine doesn't have such strict storage protocols, it can be kept in fridges at doctors' offices and pharmacies.

On March 9, Manitoba got its first 18,000 doses of the shot, which it will start rolling out to 190 sites across the province starting March 11.

Eventually, hundreds more sites are expected to join the vaccination program.

CBC Manitoba has compiled the latest information to help Manitobans figure out whether they are eligible and how to get an appointment:

Who's eligible?

Manitobans in the general population age 50 to 64 and First Nations people age 30 to 64 with certain conditions that put them at a higher risk of having serious complications if they get COVID-19 will be the first ones eligible for the new shot.

The conditions included in this rollout are split into two priority lists, with those in the first list slated to be offered immunization before those in the second — though all currently qualify.

The first list includes conditions like end-stage renal disease, cirrhosis, heart failure, certain cancers and Down syndrome. People with certain lung conditions, a history of stroke with lingering effects, sickle cell disease and those with a body mass index of 40 or higher also qualify.

The first priority list also includes people who get home care at least four times a week or 24/7 support from Community Living Disability Services. 

Some pregnant people are also on the list, including those 35 or older. People who are pregnant and have a body mass index of 30 or higher, pre-existing diabetes or hypertension or cardiac or pulmonary disease are also eligible.

The second priority list includes a slew of chronic cardiovascular, liver, neurologic, neurodevelopmental, pulmonary and renal health conditions. Some examples listed include coronary artery disease, multiple sclerosis, dementia and severe asthma.

People who have HIV (with a CD4 cell count of 200 x 106/L or higher and a CD4 percentage of 15 per cent or higher), a severe autoimmune disorder, Type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus (that's either poorly controlled or comes with complications) or tuberculosis are also on this list.

The second priority list also includes people getting immunosuppressive therapy (like chemotherapy or radiation therapy), people who get home care fewer than three times a week or those who get any level of Community Living Disability Services supports (or equivalent family support, as determined by a family physician).

Household contacts of people with conditions that put them on the first priority list are also on the second priority list. So are designated support people for personal care home residents, as long as they're in the authorized age category.

A full list of these conditions with more details is available on the province's website.

People who already qualified for vaccines (like health-care workers) will also be eligible for the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot — as long as they haven't already gotten their first dose of another vaccination.

Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead on Manitoba's vaccine task force, said the number of extra people who now qualify for the vaccine is higher than the number of doses the province got this week. 

That means the first shipment of AstraZeneca-Oxford doses won't cover all of them, but future ones could. It also means once more doses get here, doctors and pharmacists will be able to immunize a much broader range of Manitobans up to age 64.

I qualify. How do I book an appointment?

The first shipment of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines is being split up between clinics and pharmacies across Manitoba.

Because that initial shipment is fairly small, doctors' offices will be contacting patients who they know qualify for the shot for now (instead of those patients calling them).

A medical worker administers a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in this file photo. For now, Manitoba won't be giving the vaccine to people 65 or older, citing a recommendation from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. (Valentina Petrova/The Associated Press)

Meanwhile, eligible pharmacies are listed on the province's COVID-19 vaccine shot finder online. Each site will have either a red icon, which means they're not taking appointments, or a green one, which means they are.

You can search for a location near you and call them directly to book an appointment. Clinics and pharmacies will use their own booking systems to set those dates.

Where are the doses going?

Most of the clinics and pharmacies getting some of the first AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine doses are in Winnipeg, which is getting 11,200 of the first doses spread out across 118 locations.

But all five of Manitoba's health regions have at least a few sites included in the initial rollout. 

Doses are given to each of those regions based on their populations, with the Interlake-Eastern and Prairie Mountain health regions each getting 1,700, the Southern Health region getting 2,550 and the Northern Health Region getting 850.

After the per capita allocation, some remaining doses were given to large, high-volume clinics in pharmacies (mostly in Winnipeg) that serve urban Indigenous populations, the province says.

While only 190 sites across the province will receive doses over the next few days, that's because eligibility for this round was cut off on Feb. 26 (the day Health Canada approved the shot). 

A total of 357 clinics and pharmacies have been approved as of March 10, and 156 more have put their names in saying they also want to be included.

What's next?

The province says it expects to get more shipments of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine over the next few months.

More than 400 clinics and pharmacies — possibly more than 500 — are expected to be eligible to bring in vaccine shipments down the road.

And if or when Health Canada approves more COVID-19 vaccines that can be kept in a fridge (instead of a specialized freezer with ultra-low temperatures), that will help speed up the vaccine rollout too, the province says.

Why aren't people over 65 included?

While Health Canada gave the green light to use the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to adults of all ages, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended against using it on people 65 and older.

That's because there isn't enough clinical trial data to determine how effective that shot is in preventing COVID-19 in that age group. 

The committee, which makes recommendations to governments on the use of newly approved vaccines for humans, said its recommendations are based on independent advice and reflect the best currently available scientific evidence.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said the committee could update its guidance as more real-world data becomes available.


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