Low COVID-19 vaccine uptake in parts of Manitoba

WINNIPEG — Not all residents in southern Manitoba are lining up to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Vaccine uptake is slow, with rates in some areas as low as six per cent, despite the opening of the Morden vaccination supersite.

CJ Peters has lived in Winkler for about five years and says this last year has been a challenge with the pandemic.

“Things are really, really divided. I mean, we’ve definitely had people who are against having to even wear a mask,” said Peters.

Health officials are now dealing with a new challenge in the fight against COVID-19; vaccine uptake.

Of the more than 13,000 people living in Winkler, close to 1,900 have received at least one dose of a vaccine, including Mayor Martin Harder.

“I’m respectful of those who choose not to, but I’m also respectful of those who believe that that is absolutely the only thing that’s going to get us out of this thing. Personally, I believe it’s important for us to get vaccinated,” said Harder.

As of Wednesday, Winkler’s vaccine uptake was 13.6 per cent. In nearby Stanley, it’s 6.1 per cent and is 14.9 per cent in Hanover.

On Wednesday, Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the vaccine immunization task force, said it wasn’t a surprise to see these areas have a lower uptake.

“Those have historically been areas where we do see less uptake for influenza, and for some of the childhood vaccines as well. So this is something public health has been working on for a long time to improve confidence in the vaccine in those areas,” said Reimer.

“I think there’s a natural reluctance on the part of some people where there haven’t been as many cases of COVID to think that they’re safe because of that, but that being said, we need to make sure that we make every effort,” said Premier Brian Pallister.

Mayor Harder is hoping those eligible for the vaccine will meet with their doctors to learn more and decide what’s best for them.

“If I can see that number move up to 25, and move up to 50, I think there’s going to be a significant change in attitude, and hopefully we’ll get to that point and get to the 70 per cent that not only the province is looking for, but that we need to be able to move on with our lives again,” said Harder.

The vaccine task force is working with Southern Health on how to improve vaccination numbers.

So far more than 34 per cent of Manitoba adults have received at least one vaccine dose.

As for Peters, she believes it may be tough to get the uptake numbers where they need to be but is hopeful it can be done.

“When my number comes up, I will gladly accept my vaccine.”

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