Manitoba announces new grant program to target COVID-19 vaccine uptake

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government has announced a new grant program aimed at targeting vaccine uptake in the province.

Premier Brian Pallister made the announcement at a news conference on Thursday.

“We need Manitobans to continue to do two things: get a vaccine as soon as possible and follow the public health orders,” the premier said.

“The quicker we do these two things the faster we beat COVID and the sooner we can safely reopen our economy and start to get back to doing the things that we miss and that we love.”

Through this new initiative, grants of up to $20,000 will be made available to community, sport, religious, cultural, and education organizations to provide programming to encourage people to get immunized and educate them on vaccines. Manitoba has up to $1 million to provide these grants.

These programs could include outreach staffing, contacting and supporting clients to get vaccinated, communications materials, and community-level incentives. The programming will be completed between June and September 2021.

Applicants will be required to indicate the low-uptake community they are targeting; what their plan is to reach this community and why it will be successful; and what the cost will be. Applicants will also be asked if they are interested in hosting or partnering on a pop-up clinic.

The premier noted that about two-thirds of eligible Manitobans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, but, “we can’t stop there.”

“These variants are fast, fast-acting, dangerous and we have to be aiming higher,” Pallister said.

“It’s a significant accomplishment, but it’s not over.”

Manitobans can begin to register for information sessions on the grant program on Thursday.

The province also announced it is making a pivot on its ProtectMB campaign, which will now focus on encouraging people to get vaccinated as a way of getting back to regular life.

“Manitobans told us that getting back to the things they love is one of the biggest incentives to getting vaccinated and we’re going to reinforce that through this advertising campaign,” the premier said.

Pallister said until recently the province’s top limiting factor in protecting Manitobans was vaccine supply, but now the challenge is to encourage those who have not been immunized to get their shot.

NDP QUESTIONS WHY IT TOOK SO LONG

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew questioned why the province is only now trying to combat vaccine hesitancy, as Manitoba is several months into its vaccine rollout.

“This is something many experts warned about. Many people in the community were starting to ask questions about (vaccines) even before the end of 2020,” Kinew said.

“People were saying we need to take concrete action to ensure that people can get trusted information from trusted sources, including trusted sources in their own communities, local communities, cultural communities. What took so long?”

He said throughout the pandemic and the vaccine rollout, the province is always “playing catch up” and trying to respond to issues after they’ve taken place. Kinew said the province needs to be more proactive.

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