Manitoba is ready to receive its first doses of COVID-19 vaccine as early as next week, the premier says.
But Brian Pallister warns there will only “a limited supply” available before the spring
He said the province expects the first 1,950 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to arrive next week, which is enough to immunize roughly 900 people with two doses each.
“With only a very limited supply of new vaccines available before the spring, we will follow the advice of national and provincial public health experts,” said Pallister.
“We will focus our initial immunization efforts on those most at risk of COVID-19 including seniors, those working in the health-care system and in long-term care facilities, and Indigenous peoples.”
On Wednesday, Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine was officially approved for use in Canada.
Health Canada said it has completed its review of the clinical data submitted by Pfizer and BioNTech, and deemed the hotly awaited vaccine safe for use, the regulator announced in a notice on its website.
“The data provided supports favorably the efficacy of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine as well as its safety,” the notice reads.
“The efficacy of the vaccine was established to be approximately 95 per cent, the vaccine was well tolerated by participants and has no important safety concerns.”
The province says the first doses it receives will be given to front-line health-care workers in Manitoba’s critical care units in an effort to make sure critical COVID-19 care can continue to be provided throughout the pandemic.
The next round of vaccine doses is expected to arrive in late December or early January, the province says.
In all, Pallister says the province has been told it will receive 228,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines between now and next March, enough, he says, to vaccinate more than 100,000 Manitobans or roughly seven per cent of the total population.
“This is the most challenging public health situation our province has ever faced and the special challenges of dealing with a brand new vaccine, with very limited supply, creates incredibly difficult logistical and planning challenges for all governments,” said Pallister in a government release.
“We have stood up a solid infrastructure to have vaccines administered quickly and safely.”
The province says priority groups for the vaccine have been recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, and include:
- health-care workers most directly involved in the COVID-19 response;
- seniors in congregate living settings such as long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities, retirement homes, and chronic care hospitals;
- older adults starting at 80 years of age and older; and
- adults at risk in remote or isolated Indigenous communities.
“As we unfortunately know too well, older people are the most at risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19,” said Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin.
“Health-care workers are always at greater risk of contracting COVID-19 or transmitting it to others. We need to protect them in order to protect our health care system.”
The province said the first temporary immunization clinic is now ready to go in Winnipeg, and the site completed a “dry run” Tuesday.
“Information about the vaccine clinic, including how to book an appointment, will be provided in the coming days to those health-care workers who will be immunized,” said Pallister.
Roussin said they hope to complete the first 900 doses in less than five days.
More sites will be opened over the next three months in Winnipeg, Brandon, Thompson, Steinbach, Gimli, Portage la Prairie and The Pas, said the province.
The province already has 60 freezers on the ground or on its way to store the vaccine, as the Pfizer vaccine must be stored at a chilly -70C, and the Moderna vaccine at -20C. By January, the province says it will have the ability to store more than 1.8 million doses.
In the meantime, the province says they will soon start recruiting people to train to give the vaccine.
The government is also going to look for ways to encourage people to get vaccinated. Well over 60 per cent of the population would need to get the vaccine to see some effect of herd immunity, Roussin said.
Pallister indicated a willingness to look at an idea floated Tuesday by the Ontario government that could bar people who didn’t get inoculated from large public places such as theatres.
“I’m not sure that’s an issue that’s yet being examined but it’s now been added to the list. It’s a perfectly legitimate question,” Pallister said.
“We are going to be looking at ways — and we are studying this now — how to encourage people to help us develop that so-called herd immunity here in Manitoba.”
Second deadliest day
The news comes as health officials say another 18 Manitobans with COVID-19 have died and 280 new infections have been identified as of Wednesday.
Wednesday’s cases bring the province’s total reported since March to 19,655, and 438 Mantiobans with the virus have died.
The latest deaths include:
- a male in his 40s from the Winnipeg health region;
- a female in her 50s from the Winnipeg health region;
- a female in her 50s from the Winnipeg health region, linked to the outbreak at the Health Science Centre unit GA3;
- a female in her 60s from the Winnipeg health region;
- a male in his 60s from the Southern Health–Santé Sud health region;
- a male in his 70s from the Winnipeg health region;
- a female in her 70s from the Southern Health–Santé Sud health region;
- a female in her 70s from the Winnipeg health region;
- a female in her 70s from the Winnipeg health region, linked to the outbreak at the Victoria General Hospital unit 4S;
- a male in his 80s from the Winnipeg health region, linked to the outbreak at the Maples Long Term Care Home;
- a male in his 80’s from the Winnipeg health region, linked to the outbreak at the Park Manor Care Home;
- a female in her 80s from the Prairie Mountain Health region, linked to the outbreak at Grandview Personal Care Home;
- a male in his 80s from the Southern Health–Santé Sud health region;
- a female in her 80s from the Winnipeg health region, linked to the outbreak at the Misericordia Health Centre’s Transitional Unit;
- a female in her 80s from the Winnipeg health region, linked to the outbreak at the St. Norbert Personal Care Home;
- a female in her 90s from the Winnipeg health region, linked to the outbreak at the Charleswood Care Centre;
- a female in her 90s from the Winnipeg health region, linked to the outbreak at Park Manor Care Home; and
- a male in his 90s from the Winnipeg health region, linked to the outbreak at the Holy Family Personal Care Home.
It’s the second highest number of deaths reported in a single day, after 19 fatalities were reported Saturday.
Wednesday’s cases include 193 in the Winnipeg Health region, 26 cases in the Southern Health region, 15 cases in the Prairie Mountain Health region, 19 cases in the Northern Health region, and 27 cases in the Interlake-Eastern Health region.
Hospitalization rates continued to fall Wednesday, with 300 patients with COVID-19 reported in hospital, with 38 in ICU.
A new outbreak was reported Wednesday at Boyne Lodge Personal Care Home in Carman. The province also said an outbreak at Headingley Correctional Centre in Headingley that was declared over Tuesday, had been declared over in error, and is actually ongoing.
Meanwhile outbreaks at Grace Hospital unit 4 South and Health Science Centre unit GH3 in Winnipeg have been declared over, the province said.
The premier announced last week the province has 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.
“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.
“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 province announced earlier this week that most of the restrictions will continue into early January, including a ban on gatherings of more than five people.
“Our case numbers are still too high,” Roussin said Wednesday.
“We need to decrease the number of contacts we have and the best way to do that is to stay home as much as possible.”
-with files from Shane Gibson, Amanda Connolly and The Canadian Press