‘We need to step it up’: former emergency manager says urgency is lacking in Manitoba vaccine rollout

WINNIPEG — A former emergency manager who saw the province through many disasters says the sense of urgency for the vaccine rollout is missing, and suggests the military step in to get shots in arms faster.

Chuck Sanderson was the head of Manitoba’s Emergency Measures Organization from 2002 to 2013, leading the province through one of the largest disasters he faced – the 2011 flood.

“The 2011 flood was massive and it never stopped,” he said. “It was a case where we called in the military.”

The COVID-19 pandemic is not the same situation, but he thinks the province should utilize military support for the vaccine rollout.

Sanderson said any emergency response should be simple, robust and have back-ups worked into them. He said so far he doesn’t like what he’s seeing in Manitoba’s vaccine rollout.

He believes the military could help wherever needed.

“The military is fantastic at logistical organization, they would be able to come in and assist greatly,” he said.

“There is a battle being waged and right now I think Manitoba is bringing a slingshot to the battle. I think we need to step it up.”

According to Wednesday’s provincial vaccine bulletin, little more than half of the more than 400,000 doses delivered to Manitoba have been administered.

“Nearly 15 per cent of Manitobans over the age of 18 have already received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and that number is increasing rapidly,” A provincial spokesperson told CTV News Wednesday.

“The vast majority of those Manitobans received their dose with little or no delay. The leaders of Manitoba’s vaccine rollout are aware of and are addressing both logistical and data entry/reporting issues, and these actions will be reflected in the days to come.”

Sanderson said it seems to him there are too many doses are sitting in fridges.

“If you’re only being able to do 5,000 doses a day, and you’ve got 155,000 in the bank. That’s a lot of days of banked doses,” he said.

Vaccine Task Force officials estimate the province has the capacity to do 20,000 doses a day. Its plan is to deplete inventory over the days leading up to the next shipment.

Sanderson said military support could help speed things up, but the key is getting the political will.

“There are federal resources all you have to do is ask. So, let’s ask.”

The written statement from the provincial spokesperson said the task force is not considering calling the military in.

“While we understand there are some individuals who are suggesting military assistance with the vaccine rollout, those who are fully engaged in this operation know that military assistance is not under consideration or required as we are able to meet our vaccination targets with existing resources here in Manitoba.” 

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