Manitoba won't expand AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine eligibility to 65 and older, for now

Manitoba won't change its eligibility requirements for the AstraZeneca-Oxford coronavirus vaccine to match the recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, at least for now.

Online coronavirus vaccine booking system launched Wednesday

Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization is now recommending the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine for all adults, including those 65 and older. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Manitoba won't change its eligibility requirements for the AstraZeneca-Oxford coronavirus vaccine to match the new recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, at least for now.

On Monday, NACI revised its earlier recommendation for that vaccine to include those age 65 and older. Manitoba rolled out a plan last week to give the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot to vulnerable people younger than 65 on the basis of NACI's earlier advice.

"Over the long term, this is great news. We want to have more flexibility about how we can provide vaccine to Manitobans," said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for the Manitoba vaccine task force.

"But right now, that doesn't change the fact that we only have 18,000 doses of AstraZeneca available. So for now, we'll be sticking with the current eligibility criteria."

Manitoba continues to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine to older Manitobans, expanding the eligibility Wednesday to include everyone 73 and older and First Nations people 53 and older.

The AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is being delivered through medical clinics and pharmacies throughout the province. Around 190 pharmacies and clinics are currently giving out the vaccine and so far, Manitoba has administered about 1,500 doses.

Reimer called that number "extremely encouraging," given that many of the AstraZeneca-Oxford doses didn't go out until late last week or early this week, and the data entered into the system lags behind when the doses are actually administered.

"It means that the pharmacists and docs started administering as quickly as they possibly could, some of them the same day that the vaccines arrived in their facilities," she said.

Online booking system launched

Manitobans can now book appointments for a coronavirus vaccine through an online system that launched Wednesday. 

Eligible people can make appointments online for one of the four vaccine supersites in the province. The online system is not available for booking appointments at medical clinics or pharmacies. 

The online booking system requires an email address and a health card number. The call centre also remains open for booking appointments. 

The age of eligibility for the vaccine has lowered to 73 and older for the general population, and 53 and older for First Nations people.

Manitobans age 50-64 and First Nations people age 30-64 with certain health conditions that place them at risk are eligible for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.

Spouses who meet the eligibility requirements can now book appointments together. 

The first temporary vaccine clinics launched in rural and northern Manitoba on Tuesday in Gimli and Beausejour, and another opened in Pine Falls on Wednesday. Eligible Manitobans can book appointments at those sites by calling 1-844-626-8222.

schedule on the provincial government's website includes opening dates for other pop-up clinics opening from March 16-26.

Public persuasion campaign

Manitoba is also launching a communications campaign to encourage people in the province to get vaccinated.

Internal research has found that roughly 80 per cent of Manitobans have either already received the vaccine or are likely to get it, while nine per cent are considered "skeptical" about the vaccine and another 10 per cent are thought to be completely opposed to getting vaccinated.

As part of the campaign, dubbed #ProtectMB, people will be able to sign up to receive notifications when they become eligible for vaccination.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization now recommends the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot for people 65 and older as well as younger adults. It had earlier been recommended only for people under 65.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, has said there is no evidence to suggest it is causing adverse events, although some European countries have suspended its use.


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