Easing of rules to come next week as Manitoba achieves vaccination milestone nearly 1 month early
Single-day 'vax-a-thon' opens all Manitoba supersites to walk-in vaccinations to spur uptake
Manitobans can expect new public health orders next week that could bring more reopenings and capacity increases at businesses that have already reopened.
A preview of potential changes will be announced ahead of any new health orders so Manitobans can provide feedback, Premier Brian Pallister said Wednesday morning.
"Everyone wants their lives back, but we all don't want a yo-yo effect," Pallister said at a news conference where he spoke about new health orders coming next week.
"We're going to take, no pun intended, conservative steps here to get our lives back."
The province also will do only walk-in immunizations at all supersites for a single day next week in what the province is branding a "vax-a-thon" to spur uptake.
On Tuesday, Manitoba passed a milestone in the province's plan to reopen more businesses and increase capacity at those that have already reopened.
More than 75 per cent of eligible Manitobans 12 and up have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and over 50 per cent have received two, the target the province had for August long weekend reopenings.
Pallister previously said if targets are reached ahead of schedule, more reopenings could happen earlier than planned.
The next reopening hurdle is to get 80 per cent of eligible Manitobans their first dose and 75 per cent their second by the September long weekend, which requires that roughly another 33,000 more first doses and 100,000 second doses get done.
Demand is high for second doses, but it's begun to decline for first doses.
"It's fair to say that for the first time, we're likely going to see that our vaccine supply is going to be consistently more than the daily demand," Johanu Botha, operations manager for the vaccine task force, said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference with vaccine task force medical lead Dr. Joss Reimer.
Botha highlighted the importance of small community-hosted immunization efforts designed to reach some who may face barriers to accessing vaccines.
As an example, he described a one-day effort in The Pas in June by nurses and nursing students in a low-income neighbourhood. They provided snacks and other services, COVID-19 tests and went door-knocking, ultimately vaccinating 19 adults and five young people that day.
"Sometimes it can be the dozen doses provided to people who might not otherwise be immunized that will be a real change-maker in the community," Botha said.
Pallister praised a nursing team that helped a Thompson school reach a group of youth living in low-income neighbourhoods. Nurses gave first doses to 33 students and 19 adults, he said.
The vax-a-thon will take place July 14. Manitobans can expect a special, "festive" atmosphere, Pallister said.
About 20,000 doses will be available for walk-in vaccinations at supersites that day, including 8,000 Pfizer doses earmarked for those 12 to 17, who can currently only receive that vaccine.
That represents a significant bump in doses earmarked for walk-ins.
Previously, some supersites had hundreds of doses reserved for walk-ins on specific days.
In one example, the Leila Avenue supersite in Winnipeg saw huge demand in late June when it opened to walk-ins for several days. Demand on the first day far exceeded the 330 doses it had reserved for walk-ins that day.
The RBC Convention Centre in downtown Winnipeg is the only Manitoba vaccine supersite that hasn't offered walk-ins.
The province has rolled out a series of campaigns designed to encourage vaccination.
Manitobans can receive a card that provides proof of full vaccination status two weeks after their second dose, which allows some activities that health orders prohibit for others.
The privileges include visits to health-care and long-term-care facilities if both patient or resident and visitor are fully immunized, and dining indoors at restaurants with other households, provided all diners are fully immunized.
Manitobans can apply for vaccination cards or update their status online, or by calling the immunization call centre at 1-844-626-8222.
Late last month, the province issued over two dozen $20,000 grants totalling $390,000 to community organizations and other partners working with groups with low vaccine uptake.
The province devoted about $1 million to the effort, and Pallister said more information will be released later this week about remaining grants.
Manitoba also recently lifted isolation requirements for those who are at least two weeks past their second dose and returning from other provinces. The federal quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated international travellers returning to Canada were lifted on Monday.
About one month ago, the province announced $2 million in prizes for people who get vaccinated: $25,000 scholarship lotteries for those 12 to 17 and regional $100,000 lotteries for adults who have received their first dose by Aug. 2 and their second by Sept. 6. All eligible Manitobans are automatically enrolled, but people can opt out.
Pallister said vaccines are "our way out" of the pandemic.
"We're rolling up our sleeves and we're winning as a consequence … but we need more."
WATCH | Full news conference on COVID-19 | July 7, 2021: