The first doses of COVID-19 vaccine have arrived in Manitoba.
The Canada Border Services Agency said the province’s share of Canada’s first shipment of the highly anticipated vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech arrived in Manitoba Tuesday morning, a day before Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister has said the first doses will be delivered.
“This is a long-awaited day of hope for Manitoba, as for more than nine months, this unprecedented pandemic has taken a toll on all of us as individuals, on our communities and our health-care system,” said Pallister in a government release.
“As more vaccine arrives in the province, we will be ready to deliver, building on this incredibly important first immunization clinic intended to protect our first priority group and save lives.”
Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Dec. 9, and the first doses began arriving in Canada Sunday.
Pallister said Monday a priority group of health-care workers in critical care units will be the first to get Manitoba’s share of 900 doses starting Wednesday morning. As more shipments come in, priority will be given to other health-care workers, seniors and Indigenous people, the province has said.
The premier toured the province’s first coronavirus vaccination clinic where Wednesday’s doses will be given, set up the University of Manitoba’s Rady Faculty of Health Sciences near the Health Sciences Centre, Monday.
During the tour, media were told the clinic will have seven immunizers on staff to start, each able to give out six shots per hour. The province says roughly 330 people can be vaccinated out of the clinic in a day.
At a Tuesday afternoon press conference Pallister said the province expects to have all 900 initial doses administered by Friday.
He said all of those immunized at the first clinic will have their second dose administered at the province’s first “super site” vaccination clinic, expected to be set up at the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg early next year.
The province says an ultra-low temperature freezer — needed to keep the Pfizer vaccine viable — was installed at the convention centre Monday. Health officials say as well as a site for immunization, the convention centre will be used for vaccine storage, administration, and logistics once more doses arrive in the province.
The province also plans to open fixed vaccination sites in Winnipeg, Brandon, Thompson, Steinbach, Gimli, Portage la Prairie and The Pas in the new year, based on vaccine supplies.
Mobile vaccination teams are also planned, Pallister said, which will use both ground and air transportation to reach remote locations as more vaccine arrives.
The province says the vaccine will eventually become more widely available at a larger number of sites, similar to a conventional vaccination campaign, like the annual flu shot.
Earlier in the day Manitoba’s chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin confirmed Manitoba is expecting a second delivery of vaccine as early as next week, but exactly how many doses are coming is still not known.
The Pfizer vaccine is the only COVID-19 vaccine approved in Canada so far.
The federal government has said just under 250,000 doses will arrive by the end of the year, which would mean a big boost in the supply arriving in the last week of December.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday Canada expects to receive 200,000 more doses from Pfizer next week.
Health-care workers in Toronto and long-term care residents in Montreal and Quebec City were the first in Canada to receive the vaccine Monday morning.
Manitoba has said it plans to vaccinate more than 100,000 people by March — that’s roughly seven per cent of the province’s population.
Earlier in the day Tuesday Trudeau announced Canada has also secured 168,000 Moderna coronavirus vaccines that, pending regulatory approval, should arrive before the end of December.
He said delivery of the Moderna vaccines could begin 48 hours after Health Canada’s approval, and will be directed to remote and Indigenous communities in Northern Canada.
While Pfizer’s vaccine needs to be stored at an ultracold temperature until it is injected, Moderna’s vaccine can survive in regular freezers, which Trudeau says makes it easier to ship to remote communities.
–With files from The Canadian Press and Global’s Katie Dangerfield
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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