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Vaccines won’t be mandatory; Manitoba teachers to get priority for rapid COVID-19 testing

Click to play video 'Manitoba vaccine distribution' Manitoba vaccine distribution
Meanwhile, the province is getting ready to roll out a vaccine in Manitoba. But the premier is calling out the federal government for a distribution plan he calls unfair. Marney Blunt explains – Dec 3, 2020

The province will prioritize rapid COVID-19 testing for teachers.

The full details of the program will come in January, said Premier Brian Pallister Thursday.

Daycare workers and those at other facilities, like prisons, are also “on the radar,” said Pallister.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Manitoba to test teachers semi-monthly with newly-approved rapid COVID-19 tests' Coronavirus: Manitoba to test teachers semi-monthly with newly-approved rapid COVID-19 tests
Coronavirus: Manitoba to test teachers semi-monthly with newly-approved rapid COVID-19 tests – Dec 3, 2020

In the meantime, the province is sending another 20 rapid testing systems to communities in Manitoba, including two in Steinbach, Boundary Trails, Portage la Prairie, Selkirk and Dauphin, and one in Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes, Stonewall, Pine Falls, Gimli, Ashern, Neepawa, Virden, Killarney, Russell and Thompson/The Pas.

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The premier said the Manitoba government has also placed a new, $40-million order for Songbird Hyris tests, which will help deliver 45,000 tests a month.

“I know you’re anxious to learn more, and we will share with you at every opportunity.”

As of November, the province had only received a handful of rapid processing tests for the novel coronavirus.

Read more: COVID-19: Manitoba’s rapid test devices expected to speed up testing in remote areas

Some remote communities received rapid test devices for COVID-19 earlier this year, where transportation and weather issues were more likely to slow results.

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Swan River, The Pas, Churchill, Thompson, Lynn Lake, Gillam and Flin Flon all got some of the Abbott ID NOW testing devices, as per public health advice.

Two of the 13 devices were sent to Winnipeg’s St. Boniface Hospital to help manage an outbreak there, while one was kept by Manitoba officials to learn how the tests can be used most effectively.

The province had supplies for 4,000 tests at the beginning of November.

A few weeks later, Health Minister Cameron Friesen called for Manitoba to be a priority to receive more tests, saying the health-care system is being strained due to high numbers.

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Coronavirus: Pallister delivers emotional plea to Manitobans not to gather during Christmas – Dec 3, 2020

Vaccine won’t be mandatory

The premier also announced they have enough supplies to deliver two doses of the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine to every Manitoban.

The vaccines will not be mandatory, said Pallister, saying the province will launch an education campaign on the benefits of being vaccinated.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Manitoba to prioritize COVID-19 rapid testing for front-line workers, rural communities' Coronavirus: Manitoba to prioritize COVID-19 rapid testing for front-line workers, rural communities
Coronavirus: Manitoba to prioritize COVID-19 rapid testing for front-line workers, rural communities – Dec 3, 2020

“Over time, the vaccine will be available to every Manitobans who wants it and this will help to protect all of us against COVID-19,” said Pallister.

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“We want to get as many vaccinated as quickly as we can,” he added, saying they’re building the workforce to deal with the surge when the vaccine is widely available.

“Our team of hundreds of dedicated Manitobans has been planning and preparing for months, for a vaccination campaign that will be unlike anything else this province has ever seen.

“We are assembling the necessary people, equipment and other resources so we can rapidly stand up a large-scale, ‘super site’ vaccine campaign, as soon as the vaccine is delivered.”

The vaccines have storage needs that are specialized, including a requirement to be kept at a very low temperature.

“The first freezer able to store safely one of the COVID-19 vaccines at extremely low temperatures has been delivered and installed, with another four on the way,” said Pallister.

Together, the freezers can hold about one million doses of vaccine, and the province has also purchased 20 ultra-cold portable freezers.

–With files from Will Reimer and The Canadian Press