The Manitoba government is expanding its COVID-19 vaccine program to prioritize first responders, teachers and other front-line workers.
In addition to the province’s current age-based criteria for the general population, front-line police officers and firefighters of all ages are now eligible to book a shot, health officials announced Wednesday. That’s about 7,100 people.
The province also plans to reveal a list of high-risk geographic areas on Friday, and anyone 18 and over living in those areas will also be eligible. The hot zones will be determined by more than just recent COVID-19 case counts.
“We’re also going to be including … population density, proportion of racialized populations, the average income of that geography, and an assessment of housing in that geography,” Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province’s vaccine effort, said Wednesday.
People who don’t live in the high-risk zones, but who work in the area in certain jobs that involve contact with the public, will also be eligible.
The list includes restaurant workers, grocery and convenience store clerks, gas station employees and people who work in schools and childcare centres.
Other workers, such as transit drivers, have asked for priority status. Reimer said that could happen later on.
“As the number of doses we have available expands, we do have the option of including (more) workers in the future,” she said.
Meanwhile the province on Wednesday dropped the age requirements for those eligible to be vaccinated at super sites and pop-up clinics to include anyone 50 and older and First Nation people aged 30 and older.
Earlier this week, eligibility for the AstraZeneca vaccine available at doctor’s offices and pharmacies was expanded to include anyone 40 and older.
While the province had originally hoped to have all Manitobans over the age of 18 who want a shot vaccinated by as early as mid-May, health officials said Wednesday with volatility in the supply of the Moderna vaccine, they now expect to have reached that goal by the first or second week of June.
The latest numbers provided by the province show a total of 521,910 doses of vaccine have been delivered to Manitoba since December.
As of Tuesday, 364,389 shots have been administered, including 293,995 first doses and 70,394 second doses, according to provincial data.
Manitoba has not seen the same recent surge in COVID-19 cases as Ontario and Alberta, but daily case counts have risen in recent weeks above the 100 mark.
Health officials reported 164 new cases of the virus Wednesday. Two earlier cases were removed due to data correction, for a net increase of 162. The province also reported one death — a man in his 50s from the Northern health region.
–With files from Shane Gibson
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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