WINNIPEG — Manitoba is getting ready to ramp up its COVID-19 immunization campaign. Plans were unveiled Wednesday to broaden the eligibility criteria in the New Year as more vaccine arrives to get doses into thousands of arms each week.
It comes as Health Canada granted approval to a second vaccine to protect people from the virus.
“Supply is not the only issue. We also have to be able to transport the vaccine to personal care homes and to all other sites as part of our rollout plan. The approval of the Moderna vaccine today is a positive step,” said Dr. Joss Reimer, Manitoba’s medical lead on COVID-19 immunization.
The vaccine won’t be available to all Manitobans quite yet. Priority groups will remain the focus of the immunization campaign.
Starting in January, the eligibility criteria in Manitoba will be expanded to include more health-care workers who have direct contact with patients or clients.
It will include those working in labs with COVID-19 specimens, child and family services, Community Living disABILITY Services group homes and paramedics. Health providers in shelters, correctional facilities and home care workers will also become eligible.
Once more vaccine arrives, personal care home residents are next in line to get the shot.
“During the month of January, Manitoba expects enough vaccine to provide approximately 10,000 immunizations per week,” Reimer said.
The breakdown of which vaccines will be used for those immunizations hasn’t been released.
The Moderna vaccine doesn’t have to be stored at the same ultra-low temperatures as the Pfizer-BioNTech version but still requires people to get two shots for full immunity.
More than 168,000 doses are expected to be shipped across Canada before the end of December, according to Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the Public Health Agency of Canada’s vice president of logistics and operations. Because it’s easier to transport, Fortin said Moderna will be delivered to remote and isolated communities.
“The authorization of the Moderna vaccine is a big milestone,” Fortin said Wednesday in Ottawa.
Final details have yet to be made public, but Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said the vaccine is needed in the province’s north.
“You do have to appreciate the remote and isolated communities, the areas that have the outbreaks that they’re contending with,” said Dumas.
The province said an immunization super site in Thompson, Man., that would require people to fly in from isolated communities is expected to be operational in February.
Dumas hopes to see the vaccine delivered in more ways than one.
“It’s really easy to say a super site is the way to go but you also have to sort of explore the logistical difficulties,” he said. “Transportation issues. Weather.”
“All these things will play a factor so we will need to explore what is actually the best possible solution.”
Dumas said First Nations health experts are part of a trilateral planning group that includes the province and federal officials. Provincial public health officials had no details to share Wednesday on when vaccinations would start happening for vulnerable First Nations people.
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Garrison Settee, who represents northern First Nations, said MKO has yet to receive information on when vaccinations will be available to MKO citizens.
We would appreciate having some information about when the off-reserve First Nation population living in Winnipeg would be entitled to receive the vaccine,” Settee said in a statement. “We also would appreciate knowing whether health-care workers from our First Nations will get access to either vaccine anytime soon.”
In addition to the super site in Thompson, one in Winnipeg is expected to open on Jan. 4 at the RBC Convention Centre and another at the Keystone Centre in Brandon on Jan. 18.
So far, more than 1,600 frontline health-care providers have received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, including 495 people who were immunized on Tuesday alone.
There have been no reports of any adverse side effects.
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