Manitoba health officials have released details on their plans for who will receive COVID-19 vaccinations next, and say they’re aiming to have shots available for the general population, starting with the elderly, in March.
Currently, Manitoba First Nations, health-care workers in high-risk settings and people living in personal care homes are being vaccinated as supply exists.
The province laid out its vaccine distribution plan with general timelines Wednesday, but health officials warn a lot could change depending on national supplies.
“We are all trying to plan for every conceivable scenario and adjust the plan accordingly,” said Health and Seniors Care Minister Heather Stefanson.
“This is the largest rollout of a vaccine in the history of not just Manitoba, but the entire world … There is no step-by-step playbook to follow.”
Dr. Joss Reimer, a member of the province’s vaccine task force, says that in March the province plans to offer vaccines in to a broader range of health-care workers and all Manitobans over 95.
The age minimum will be reduced quickly by one-year increments, and people in their 50s could be eligible by April or May.
“I’m remaining optimistic that we’re going to be getting increases in vaccines, substantially, in March and we’ll be able to open up to Manitobans over 80 in March and then just move down from there,” said Reimer.
Starting next week, vaccination teams will focus on long-term hospital patients and people who live in supportive housing where they are assisted with their daily needs.
The next phase, in March and April, will involve a wider swath of health-care workers, people in jails, shelters and other group settings, and the general population over age 80. After that, the minimum age will drop, Reimer said.
“We’re certainly hopeful that, based on what we’re hearing from the federal government and the manufacturers, that people over 60 would be able to be included in (the) April-May time period.”
Vaccinations could be open to all adults in the province by August if new vaccines are approved and supplies are steady, she added.
The province will not be prioritizing people with underlying medical conditions or the disabled. Reimer said research to date shows an age-based approach is best for capturing people most at risk of severe outcomes of COVID-19.
The plan does not include a separate category for essential workers — something that Reimer said will be considered as vaccine supplies increase.
That statement upset the head of the province’s teachers union, who called it “a slap in the face.”
“This pandemic has proven that teachers are essential workers,” James Bedford of the Manitoba Teachers Society said.
“They have put their health and safety at considerable risk to ensure that children continued to be educated. This government has failed teachers.”
Health officials reported 94 additional COVID-19 cases and four deaths Wednesday. It was the second consecutive day of a case count below 100.
Case numbers have been dropping since the fall, when the province imposed tight restrictions on social gatherings and store openings. Some of the restrictions were eased last weekend.
As of Tuesday the province says 33,361 doses of vaccine have been administered in Manitoba, including 28,274 first doses and 5,087 second doses.
Manitoba’s plans so far
The timeframes below are entirely dependent on vaccination supplies and are approximations only. The timelines do not rely on vaccines that have yet to be approved.
Stage 1 (Jan-Feb)
- No general population
- Personal Care Home residents, residents living in high-risk facilities
- Health care workers in critical care, emergency departments, long term care, designated COVID wards, lab workers who handle COVID-19, correctional facilities, emergency shelters, CLDS and CFS group homes, paramedics born before 1975, acute care facilities born before 1975, home care workers born before 1975, health care workers in designated COVID-19 testing and immunization clinics
Stage 2 (March-April)
- General population age 80 and over, starting with Manitobans over 95 and expanding by one-year increments until age 80
- Residents of high and moderate risk congregate living facilities
- Healthcare workers in acute care facilities, paramedics, home care
- Healthcare workers over the age of 60 who provide direct care in primary care clinics, dental clinics, specialty physician clinics, diagnostic imaging, outpatient laboratories and surgical programs, elderly day programs,
- all staff in licensed personal care homes, all staff over 60 in congregate living facilities
Stage 3 (Spring-Summer)
- Manitobans over age 60, starting with over 75 and expanding by one-year increments to 60
- All staff in acute care facilities, primary care clinics, dental clinics, specialty physician clinics, diagnostic imaging, outpatient laboratories and surgical programs, elderly day programs, home care
- All staff in congregate living facilities
- All residents of congregate living facilities not reached in first stages
Stage 4: (Summer-Fall)
- Manitobans over 18, starting with those over 55 and expanding by one-year increments
- All remaining health care workers
–With files from Steve Lambert at The Canadian Press
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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