Adults in downtown Winnipeg, parts of inner city to get priority access to vaccines, province says
More communities, including areas outside of Winnipeg, to be announced next week
All adults living in downtown Winnipeg — plus swaths of the inner city, including Point Douglas and the North End — can now get a COVID-19 vaccine, as can those in certain professions who work in the neighbourhoods.
"Making vaccine available to everyone … who's over 18 in these areas is expected to help control the spread of the virus, [and] should reduce serious illness and help protect our health-care system as well from being overwhelmed," Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead on Manitoba's vaccination task force, said at a news conference on Friday.
The three Winnipeg neighbourhoods, the boundaries of which correspond with their respective health districts, are Downtown East, Point Douglas South and Inkster East.
They include areas north of the Assiniboine River and west of the Red River. The downtown section includes areas east of Maryland Street and Sherbrook Street, as well as north of Notre Dame Avenue.
Point Douglas South includes areas to the south and east of Redwood Avenue and Arlington Street, as well as south of Selkirk Avenue.
Inkster East stretches north and west from Notre Dame Avenue and McPhillips Street, stopping at King Edward Street, Keewatin Street and the Canadian Pacific Railway lines in the east, and includes areas around the Inkster Industrial Park in the north.
"Our analysis has shown that these communities are particularly hard-hit or at high risk for transmission," Reimer said.
A map showing the boundaries of each neighbourhood is available on the Manitoba government's website.
These three neighbourhoods are just the first hot spots to be given priority access to vaccines. The province plans to announce more communities, including areas outside of Winnipeg, next week, Reimer said.
Adults working in certain front-line jobs in those communities, such as grocery store employees and school staff, are also eligible, regardless of where they live.
In total, 35,000 people live or work in those areas, the province said in a news release.
On Wednesday, the vaccine task force announced it would prioritize workers in a number of categories employed in areas of the province with high rates of transmission and severe outcomes from COVID-19.
That list includes people who work:
- At a school.
- As a child-care or daycare provider.
- In a food processing facility, including as a food inspector.
- As a public health inspector or workplace safety and health officer.
- At a grocery store, convenience store or retail gas location.
- Anywhere that serves or provides food, including restaurants, food banks and soup kitchens.
'A blessing for all of us'
Ishi Kohli, 20, is one of those front-line workers now eligible to get a vaccine. She works as a cashier and cook at Junior's restaurant on Portage Avenue.
"It makes me feel really lucky because people are waiting for vaccines for quite a long time and this pandemic's taking a long, long time now. Finally, I feel like, because of these vaccines it can come to an end."
Despite the threat of COVID-19, Kohli says people like her and others still have to go to work to keep the city running.
"I feel very lucky that I'm working here, and the government is taking certain steps for everyone, and this vaccine is coming out for all of us. It's a kind of blessing for all of us."
Using data starting in Oct. 1, around the start of the pandemic's second wave in Manitoba, the task force based its decisions on which communities to prioritize based primarily on rates of transmission.
Other factors included the percentage of people who identify as a visible minority or as Indigenous, the percentage of low-income individuals, the amount of unsuitable housing and average population density, a provincial spokesperson said.
Each health district was assigned a score based on a scale, in which community-level COVID-19 rates were weighted to make up 30 per cent, and each other factor was weighted 14 per cent.
WATCH | Dr. Joss Reimer on how Manitoba's vaccine task force chose the first three priority areas for vaccine access:
Although areas like downtown Winnipeg have led other parts of the province in terms of case numbers, other neighbourhoods including Seven Oaks, Fort Garry and St. Vital currently have more active cases than any of the three currently on the list.
In deciding which communities should get access first, the task force looked at transmission rates from both the second and third waves, and not primarily on which neighbourhoods have the most cases right now, Reimer said.
"Our focus is not so much to stop an outbreak that's already happening, where everybody in a certain location has already been exposed," she said.
"Our focus is trying to understand where the highest risk areas of transmission are because we want to intervene before we start to see those really focused outbreaks."
On Thursday, Manitoba saw the highest jump in new COVID-19 cases since mid-January, with 261 confirmed cases. On Friday, the province announced 300 more confirmed cases of coronavirus variants.
More than a quarter of Manitobans have received at least one dose of a vaccine. As of Thursday, the province had administered 308,113 first doses.
With files from Bartley Kives and Cory Funk