Manitoba vaccine eligibility expands to include pregnant adults

Manitoba announced Friday it is expanding eligibility for COVID-19 vaccination, including opening up vaccination at supersites and pop-up clinics to pregnant people age 18 and older.

Those 30 and up with priority health conditions are now eligible for AstraZeneca vaccine

Manitoba is making the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine available to anyone 30 and older with certain priority health conditions. (Bob Edme/The Associated Press)

Manitoba announced Friday it is expanding eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines, including opening up vaccination at supersites and pop-up clinics to pregnant people age 18 and older.

That eligibility also now includes all adults who are clients of Community Living disABILITY Services, who work in any health-care setting — including outpatient settings — or who work in the vaccine warehouse.

As well, the province is expanding eligibility for the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine to those 30 to 39 years old with certain priority health conditions.

That change will make that vaccine — which is administered at pharmacies and medical clinics — more accessible for people with health conditions that make getting to a supersite or pop-up clinic difficult, says Manitoba's acting deputy chief public health officer.

"With the doses coming in … we have to ensure that there is more access," Dr. Jazz Atwal said during a news conference Friday. "It's a little more equitable, and it's a little bit more far-reaching with our distributed channels."

The list of priority conditions, which is available on the province's website, includes chronic kidney or liver disease, Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes that is poorly controlled or involves complications, chronic cardiovascular disease, severe autoimmune disorders, and certain neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions such as cerebral palsy.

Those who are 30 or up and receiving  immunosuppressing therapy, such as chemotherapy, are also now eligible for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

That change comes after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization said the vaccine should be offered to anyone 30 and older, but only when the benefits outweigh the risks of rare, serious post-vaccine blood clots with low platelets.

Manitoba had already lowered the age of eligibility for that vaccine to 40, with no health condition requirements, on April 19. Prior to that, only those 55 and older with certain underlying health conditions, and those 65 and older, were eligible for AstraZeneca. 

The change led to a surge in demand as younger people flocked to pharmacies and medical clinics to get their shot.

Earlier this week, Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead for Manitoba's vaccine implementation task force, said the province didn't have the supply available to lower the age further.

Manitoba last received a shipment of AstraZeneca on April 13, with a delivery of 11,500 doses.

At a technical briefing on Wednesday, Johanu Botha, the task force's operations lead, said there were no confirmed shipments of AstraZeneca coming in the foreseeable future, although he said the federal government had given assurances that more deliveries would arrive.

The biggest factor when considering whether to lower the age of eligibility, Reimer said at the briefing, was whether infection rates are high enough that the benefits of vaccination outweigh any potential side effects.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has been followed by concerns over the potential for blood clotting following the shot.

Vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia, or VITT, is one of the very rare but possibly severe complications that can arise from some COVID-19 vaccines. It is estimated to occur in one out of every 100,000 to 250,000 people inoculated with the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine

An Oxford study has found the risk of blood clots from a COVID-19 infection is eight to 10 times higher than from a vaccine.

Meanwhile, Manitoba has seen steady growth in infections in recent weeks, with the seven-day average daily new cases rising from 53 on April 2 to 197 as of Thursday.

On Tuesday, British Columbia expanded eligibility for AstraZeneca to anyone 30 and over living in COVID-19 hot spots.

The eligibility for other vaccines in Manitoba remains at 50 years old and up for the general population, and 30 and up for First Nations people.

In addition, all people over the age of 18 who live in several areas of Winnipeg, Brandon and some eastern Manitoba communities designated as COVID-19 "hot spots" are now eligible for vaccination. Those who work in certain public-facing jobs in those areas are eligible as well.

And all people living and working in northern Manitoba can also book a vaccination appointment.

With files from Lauren Pelley and Bartley Kives