Manitoba aims to be ready to deliver 1.5M vaccines from April to June

Manitoba hopes to provide 20,000 COVID-19 vaccine shots per day from April to June.

Everything hinges on ability of province to secure vaccine supply, officials say

Manitoba hopes to provide 20,000 COVID-19 vaccine shots per day from April to June. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Manitoba hopes to provide 20,000 COVID-19 vaccine shots per day from April to June.

In total, that would amount to 1.5 million doses in those three months.

But that hinges on vaccine supply, Johanu Botha, co-lead of the province's vaccine implementation task force, said Wednesday.

"That does remain the limiting factor," he said. "But our goal is to be prepared for the full amount of vaccine coming our way, regardless of how supply chain volatility affects how and when it arrives."

Vaccine supersites will administer about 70 per cent of the daily doses, while about 25 per cent will be given by doctors and pharmacists and another five per cent by pop-up clinics.

"This is a massive team effort," Botha said.

Getting doctors and pharmacists involved, however, is dependent on new vaccines that don't need the same extreme storage requirements as the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which require ultra-low-temperature freezers.

WATCH | Dr. Joss Reimer on whether Manitoba will be able to meet vaccination goal:

Dr. Joss Reimer says it's hard to say whether Manitoba will be able to meet its goal of 20,000 vaccinations per day this spring

1 year ago
Duration 0:47
Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for Manitoba's COVID-19 vaccine implementation task force, said Wednesday supply chain disruptions mean it's difficult to say for sure if the province will be able hit its best-case scenario target of 20,000 immunizations per day starting in April.

So far, there are no confirmed timelines for those more stable vaccines, such as AstraZeneca's product, the province said.

To date, 43,318 doses of vaccine have been administered in Manitoba, including 32,852 first doses and 10,466 second doses. 

More supersites

The Thompson Vaxport supersite will be ready to open Feb. 8, but will not begin providing immunizations until vaccine supply issues are resolved.

Once it is functional, it will add a fourth supersite to the province's list. There are already supersites at the Thompson Regional Community Centre, in Brandon at the Keystone Centre and in Winnipeg at the convention centre.

But the vaccine shortages have meant no new appointments for first doses are being taken at the Brandon or Winnipeg sites. Only second doses are currently being provided.

The province is still committed to providing second-dose appointments within the recommended time frame and will reach out to affected people by email or text to reschedule appointments if necessary, officials said. 

Three more sites will be launched as early as March 1 — one in the Interlake-Eastern health region, one in the Southern Health region and one in the Winnipeg health region.

The exact opening date for the latter two sites depends on the availability of vaccine supply, the province said.

As well, the convention centre site in Winnipeg will be ready to expand and a second "warm" site — able to deliver vaccines that don't require ultra-cold storage — can be activated with a day's notice, officials said.

Another five supersites are being planned for April. The location of those sites must still be determined in collaboration with regional health authorities.

In the past week, the three operating supersites administered 6,333 doses (5,732 in Winnipeg, 481 in Brandon and 120 in Thompson, where the site opened Monday).

In total, since opening, the Winnipeg supersite has administered 23,803 doses and the Brandon site has administered 1,965. That equates to a daily average of 820 and 151 doses, respectively.

No doses in mid-February

Provincial officials say the current daily maximum vaccine capacity, with existing supersites, mobile teams and pop-up clinics, is 7,097 shots a day, but there is not enough vaccine to hit that mark.

Health officials hope, based on supply projections, they can average 1,183 injections per day in February. That amount is several hundred fewer than the previously anticipated amount of 1,475 a day.

The following chart shows the number of daily vaccine doses already administered since Jan. 31 and the number projected to be administered by the end of February:

(Government of Manitoba)

The blank period, Feb. 15-17, is when the province expects to run out of doses due to the ongoing supply disruptions.

"We have to pause operations at the supersites in Winnipeg and Brandon," said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba's COVID-19 vaccine implementation task force.

"We do not have enough doses to continue providing doses on those days."'

People with appointments during that time are being rescheduled.

The province did not offer estimates for daily March vaccinations because "we don't have up-to-date estimates from the federal government or the manufacturers for March," Reimer said.

The federal government is no longer providing an estimate due to the supply shortages.

Pop-up vaccine clinics are opening Feb. 8 in Flin Flon and The Pas but all first-dose appointments available have already been booked.

In the coming weeks, more pop-ups are planned for Churchill, Gillam, Lynn Lake, Leaf Rapids and Grand Rapids.

Select First Nations health-care workers are now invited to make an appointment at a pop-up site that will launch in Winnipeg next week.

Those people would have already received booking information from their employer and can begin calling anytime. Eligible groups include include health-care workers in non-remote First Nations communities, traditional healers, knowledge keepers and ceremonial leaders.

A total of 11,800 doses has been allocated to immunize First Nations priority populations.

Despite vaccine supply disruptions, all willing and eligible residents in Manitoba's 125 licensed personal care homes have been given the first dose of vaccine and mobile immunization teams began this week to immunize patients in supportive housing and those in hospital waiting for personal care home placements.

The second doses are to be delivered to all personal care homes before the end of February, the province said on Wednesday.

Appointments and bookings

To deal with the frustrations reported by people trying to book vaccine appointments, the province has made some improvements, officials said.

Available call lines have increased tenfold since December and there is now a call-back option to reduce the time people spend waiting on the phone.

An additional 892 staff have been assigned to COVID-19 immunization efforts from regional health authorities, bringing new hires and existing staff to 2,292.

As more vaccine arrives in Manitoba, extra staff will continue to be hired to expand service, the province said.

The province is also looking to have an online booking tool ready for the start of April, Both said.

The following chart lists groups by priority for vaccination and when they should expect to be immunized, based on a low-supply scenario of vaccine availability:

(Government of Manitoba)

This chart shows immunization schedules based on a high-supply scenario of vaccine availability. It includes 700,000 as-yet unapproved vaccine doses:

(Government of Manitoba)

The timelines depend on vaccine supplied by the federal government.

"We want Manitobans to know we are ready. If enough vaccine comes to immunize nearly every adult [from April to June], we can meet that demand," Reimer said.

Asked how likely it actually is that the province can handle 20,000 appointments per day, Reimer was adamant.

"We are ready," she said, noting all of the staffing plans are in place and the clinics are being readied. 

"Really, the deciding factor of whether or not we can achieve the 20,000 doses a day is if we have 20,000 doses a day," she said.

When asked how likely that is, Reimer was uncertain.

"I mean, I can only speculate," she said. "Certainly, we're hearing from the federal government that they're anticipating approval of AstraZeneca in the near future. When exactly that will be, I don't know."

AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical company, has said it would have doses available for Canada, but recently revealed it is also experiencing manufacturing delays, Reimer said.

"So the best information that I have today is that we will have a third vaccine available in Q2 [April to June], but we know that's unpredictable and that that can change any day," she said.

"We want to be ready for the best-case scenario, that we get a lot of vaccines, but everything that we're doing right now is theoretical.

"If we want to reach all Manitobans by the end of August, we will need more than Pfizer and Moderna to be approved."

Limited supply could disrupt vaccine rollout plans

1 year ago
Duration 1:58
Manitoba has revealed new timelines for vaccine rollout. The province says it could do 20,000 COVID-19 vaccinations a day starting in April. That's if the doses are delivered by then.


Darren Bernhardt spent the first dozen years of his journalism career in newspapers, at the Regina Leader-Post then the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. He has been with CBC Manitoba since 2009 and specializes in offbeat and local history stories. He is the author of award-nominated and bestselling The Lesser Known: A History of Oddities from the Heart of the Continent.


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