Manitoba's top doctor apologizes for COVID-19 vaccine booking delays as demand is larger than supply
First 900 vaccine doses set to be given as early as Wednesday, province says
Manitoba's chief public health officer apologized to those who experienced delays when calling to book appointments to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, calling the first round of immunizations a jumping-off point for future improvements.
This week, about 900 front-line health care workers who meet specific criteria are set to be vaccinated, but more than 100,000 people called in to book appointments they weren't eligible for.
That meant some people had to call numerous times or wait on the line for hours.
WATCH | Roussin apologizes for long wait times for initial screening:
"Unfortunately there were many people who were not honest with the initial screening approach, so many of the call centre attendants were dealing with screening out people," said Dr. Brent Roussin in a press conference on Monday.
"I apologize to everyone who had a frustrating experience, but our program is moving forward and we're working on ways to improve that booking process."
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved for use by Health Canada last week, and a shipment arrived for distribution on Monday.
Manitoba's share of the doses haven't yet arrived, but they're set to be here and ready to be injected as early as Wednesday.
In the first round of immunizations, the only people who are eligible are health-care workers who work in direct contact with patients.
They must also meet one of the following criteria: work in critical-care units and were born on or before Dec. 31, 1970; work in acute care and long-term care facilities and were born on or before Dec. 31, 1960; or are assigned to COVID-19 immunization clinics, according to the province.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister toured the COVID-19 immunization clinic Monday afternoon, where roughly 900 health-care professionals who meet the criteria will get their vaccines starting as early Wednesday.
As of noon on Monday, about two-thirds of the 900 appointments are filled.
More doses are on the way though, and Roussin says this first stage is an opportunity to test the waters and see how to ramp up the vaccination program.
"We expect to have bigger clinics, we expect to be able to vaccinate many, many more people. We expect to have appointments for many, many more people. This is the benefit of receiving that relatively small amount early is we get to work through a lot of these things early on," he said.
"We're using this to learn, to grow on the program."
In the future there will be more call centre attendants to book people in for appointments, and maybe even eventually an online booking process, he said.
More vaccine doses will be coming as early as next week — also earmarked for front-line health-care workers, Roussin said.
"At first we're going to have much fewer doses than what the demand is for. We'll do our best to try to roll this out in a transparent manner, but in a manner where we reach our highest risk individuals first."