Manitoba to resume scheduling new COVID-19 vaccine appointments amid Pfizer delay

The province will receive roughly 28,000 fewer doses of the  Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine following issues in the supply chain announced on Friday.

Thompson downtown vaccination site will open Feb. 1 but not taking appointments; nearby Vaxport put on hold

Vaccine appointments will resume in Winnipeg and Brandon, but will be on hold in Thompson for now. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba will resume scheduling new appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations on Tuesday, health officials say, after pausing over the weekend due to a slowdown in supply from Pfizer.

The province will receive roughly 28,000 fewer doses of the  Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine following changes in the supply chain announced last week, said Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead of Manitoba's COVID-19 vaccine task force.

"The best information we have right now is that we can expect that over the next four weeks, we're going to have substantial reductions in the amount that is delivered to Manitoba," Reimer said Monday.

"I am certainly hopeful that, after that time, that our supply will return to normal."

Reimer had previously announced on Friday the province would not be making new appointments for vaccinations due to the delay, which was prompted by Pfizer temporarily cutting back the number of doses shipped to Canada.

Officials got more clarity and crunched numbers over the weekend, she said, and determined there is still enough supply to schedule an additional 4,000 new appointments, while also honouring appointments already made.

"I am confident that our plan is sound," Reimer said. "We are not willing to sacrifice safety for speed, and our program will continue to move forward as supplies are available."

WATCH | Dr. Joss Reimer says no vaccination appointments will be cancelled due to Pfizer delay:

Task force leader touts Manitoba rollout plan's cautious approach as Pfizer delays vaccine shipments

1 year ago
Duration 1:16
Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba's COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Task Force, on Monday praised the province's cautious approach amid a shortage in Pfizer vaccine doses. Manitoba has been criticized for moving slower on its rollout than other provinces, but Reimer says it's because of Manitoba's approach that it isn't having to cancel any appointments.

New appointments made after the books open up again Tuesday morning will only be available for the Winnipeg and Brandon vaccination sites, Reimer said.

Another site, set to be opened in downtown Thompson, Man., will open as planned on Feb. 1, Reimer said. However, the downtown site will not be available for new bookings, and the planned Vaxport site just outside the northern Manitoba city will be put on hold.

"These delays are obviously disappointing," Reimer said. "But we also want to make sure that Manitobans know that as soon as supplies resume, Manitoba is ready to offer the vaccine to everyone within the supplies that we have available."

Personal care home vaccinations ahead of schedule

The Pfizer delay will not affect the rollout of Moderna vaccines in Manitoba personal care homes or to First Nations in the province, Reimer said.

Vaccinations at personal care homes are currently ahead of schedule, and the province expects to complete the first dose of immunizations at all personal care homes one week ahead of the original plan.

Vaccination teams visited 10 personal care homes last week and plan to visit 51 more this week as part of the accelerated schedule, Reimer said.

Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead of Manitoba's COVID-19 vaccine task force, says that while the vaccine delays are 'disappointing,' she is hopeful that in time, Manitoba's vaccine supply will return to normal. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

"Of the 10 sites, the uptake was very good," Reimer said. "We had very few people who declined the vaccine, and we were able to reach and complete more sites than we originally had planned."

Anita Anand, Canada's public services and procurement minister, said last week the delays at Pfizer are a result of a pause at its production facility in Puurs, Belgium. The goal is to increase production capacity long-term, Anand said.

Reimer said Monday information from Pfizer and Ottawa have indicated they're hopeful to resume production in March at the higher scale, so Reimer hopes to be back on track in Manitoba by the end of that month.

A new online dashboard tracking vaccine supply is set to launch in Manitoba this week, Reimer added. More information will be made available on Wednesday.

Doctors eager to be involved

The province is also working with doctors' groups regarding vaccination distribution, Reimer said.

A Doctors Manitoba survey suggested many family physicians in the province want to administer COVID-19 vaccines in their offices.

"It's wonderful to have doctors so engaged, and their desire to move forward with this," Reimer said.

"We are having meetings right now with several representatives of different organizations from physicians, as well as from pharmacists, about how we could do a more distributed model if we had a vaccine that safely allowed for the transportation and storage throughout the province."

The goal is to have a model that can be deployed as soon as such a vaccine is approved and available in Manitoba, Reimer said.

NDP health critic slams delayed priority list

Work continues on a priority list for vaccine access so the public can see "where they are in the queue," Reimer said.

The rollout of the list has been delayed due to the Pfizer distribution changes.

On Monday, NDP MLA and health critic Uzoma Asagwara called on the province to release the priority list sooner than later, and criticized officials for waiting too long to finalize it.

"We know that priority groups can and should be identified well in advance of even receiving doses of the vaccination," they said.

Asagwara slammed the current approach as reactive and said officials should have been looking ahead.

"We know that being reactive hasn't served Manitobans well. In fact, it's been a disadvantage here in Manitoba that has cost lives," they said.

"We need to know that this government is being proactive, planning well in advance … establishing those priority groups and being transparent about how those decisions are being made, and who is being prioritized and why."

WATCH | Full COVID-19 update for Jan. 18:

Manitoba government daily briefing on coronavirus: Jan. 18

1 year ago
Duration 50:52
Provincial officials give update on COVID-19 outbreak: Monday, January 18, 2021.