The Manitoba government says it’s possible everyone in the province 18 and older who wants a COVID-19 vaccine may have the chance to do so by May 18.
The numbers, released in a technical briefing to the media Friday, say if vaccine supplies continue to flow in as projected, it will move up first-dose vaccinations by months. Officials say it’s because the province is delaying second doses in order to get first doses done more quickly.
“We’re very confident in the data that we’ve seen so far regarding the effectiveness in the real world of the first dose,” Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province’s vaccine task force, said Friday.
The numbers are the best-case scenario.
The worst-case scenario is that all eligible Manitobans will be vaccinated by June 30.
Originally, the province’s plan was to have everyone immunized by late summer to late fall, and first doses would only be booked when there was certainty a second dose would be available within a few weeks.
Now, the second dose will be delayed by up to four months, freeing up room for more people to get first shots.
Manitoba recently started vaccinating the general population, starting with the oldest age groups, after focusing initially on people in nursing homes, health-care workers and other specific categories. The province is currently booking appointments for First Nations people aged 67 and up and others aged 87 and up.
Officials also said Friday Manitobans will soon be able to book a vaccination appointments at a local health care provider.
Reimer said some 18,000 doses of the newly-approved Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are expected to arrive in the province next week, and will immediately be distributed to eligible clinics and pharmacies.
The first group eligible for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for the will include those aged 50 to 64 with underlying conditions, Reimer said.
She said priority list is complete, and they’ll be sharing it with those providers later Friday.
“What we want to do is give the list of conditions to the physicians and pharmacists first, so that they have an opportunity to plan … and whether or not they’ll be reaching out to the patient populations or if they’ll be setting up a system for patients to call in and book their own appointments,” she said.
Reimer said Manitobans in the new age category shouldn’t call to book an appointment yet, as the exact details are still being worked out.
To date, roughly 500 medical clinics and pharmacies have applied to be part of the immunization campaign, according to the province.
Meanwhile, the province says every First Nations person 18 and over should be able to receive a dose by mid-May.
Vaccination teams will begin visiting each community later this month.
They will be prioritized based on highest-risk of natural disaster, or those with high COVID-19 fatality rates.
“Communities at risk of flooding, fire, of losing winter road access, or where a community is across a waterway, will receive their vaccines first,” said Dr. Marcia Anderson, with the First Nation Pandemic Response team.
“This will ensure that communities most at risk do not see their spring and summer hazards compounded by the pandemic.”
Johnson & Johnson vaccine approved in Canada
The latest on the province’s vaccine rollout plans comes as the the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine was officially approved by Health Canada on Friday.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has not been factored into the projections, said Johanu Botha, co-lead of Manitoba’s Vaccine Implementation Task Force on Friday.
As well as the 18,000 AstraZeneca doses expected in Manitoba next week, April will see more than 50,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, Botha said.
The news comes two days after Manitoba said it will begin delaying the timing of second doses of COVID-19 vaccine in an effort to see more people get a first shot more quickly.
Studies have shown first doses are more effective than originally believed leading many provinces to delay second doses as a result.
Reimer said Wednesday the new approach will apply to all three vaccines then approved for use in Canada.
“The reason for this decision at this time is based on what we’re seeing in real-world conditions about the effectiveness of the vaccines that are currently authorized for use in Canada and around the world,” Reimer said.
“These vaccines are providing a significant level of protection, even after one dose. This means that there is more of a clear advantage to getting vaccines to more people sooner.”
As of Friday health officials say 84,937 doses of vaccine have been administered in Manitoba including 55,090 first doses and 29,847 second doses.
To date, a total of 124,840 doses of vaccine have been delivered to Manitoba, according to provincial data, including 95,940 doses of Pfizer vaccine and 28,900 doses of the Moderna vaccine.
Manitoba’s COVID-19 indicators continued to drop Friday from a spike in the fall. Health officials reported 53 additional cases and one death. The percentage of people testing positive, which once topped 13 per cent, was down to three per cent provincewide and 2.4 per cent in Winnipeg.
“The horizon isn’t too far down the road here. We’re going to be in a really good spot, I think,” said Dr. Jazz Atwal, the province’s deputy chief public health officer.
“Just remain resilient a little longer and I think Manitobans won’t be disappointed.”
–With files from The Canadian Press and Global’s Will Reimer
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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