Province defends vaccine rollout as thousands of unused doses sit in Manitoba freezers

WINNIPEG — The provincial government is defending its vaccine rollout as more than 150,000 doses sit in freezers. The province insists the doses will all be administered in eight days.

Manitoba has said it could administer more than 20,000 doses a day if it had the proper supply from the federal government, but critics doubt that claim, saying people aren’t receiving their shots fast enough to prevent a third wave.

On Tuesday, Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, said Manitoba is in a critical race.

“That third wave is making its way here,” he said. “It’s just, can we hold it off long enough to have a significant amount of Manitobans vaccinated.”

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew accused the province of lagging behind its counterparts.

“Everyone wants this campaign to succeed yet it doesn’t seem like it is, at least not yet,” he said in Manitoba’s Legislature on Tuesday.

Premier Brian Pallister responded by saying the province currently ranks fourth in getting total doses out, as of Tuesday.

But updated numbers from the province released on Tuesday show Manitoba has a lot of unused stock on hand – with 372,030 doses received and only 216,718 doses administered.

“Manitoba has thousands of doses, nearly 160,000 in freezers right now,” Kinew said.

While the doses are sitting in freezers for now, the province said the unused doses are already allotted for supersites, First Nation communities, doctors’ offices and pharmacies.

Manitoba’s health minister said she is confident the doses will all be used up in the next eight days.

“All of those are earmarked by way of appointments in one of those facilities. Obviously, the supercentres as well where appointments are booked.”

But staffing has also been an issue. At the supersite in Winnipeg last week, the province had to rely on help from volunteers and city workers for the vaccination program, which saw long lines.

The minister said those issues have been dealt with.

“Sometimes glitches do happen in the system in terms of staffing challenges and so on,” Stefanson said. “We’ve addressed those.”

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