Manitoba health officials are expanding vaccine eligibility for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and say all Manitobans 12 and over should be able to book a shot by May 21.
Minimum age to get a shot at a pop-up or a vaccination super site is dropping to 45 from 50 starting Wednesday, officials said during a technical briefing held for media Wednesday morning.
“We’ve reached another important milestone in immunizing Manitobans,” said Johanu Botha, co-lead of the province’s vaccine implementation task force, noting more than 40 per cent of eligible Mantiobans have received at least one shot of the vaccine.
“As more vaccine arrives in our province that means our operations are also accelerating in response.”
Vaccination appointments can be made by calling 1-844-626-8222 (1-844-MAN-VACC) or through the province’s website.
At the technical briefing Botha said everyone aged 12 and up is expected to be eligible to book an appointment by May 21 under a new strategy that will see age age eligibility expanded regularly on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, as supplies and available appointments allow.
The plan would see all eligible Manitobans who want a shot vaccinated with at least one dose as early as June 11, Botha added.
Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the vaccine effort, says no decision has been made yet on whether teenagers will be prioritized over older people.
The move comes as the province is putting an end to community-based eligibility expansions. That effort has seen 14 communities designated as COVID-19 hot spots, or areas with high-risk of transmission, where everyone 18 and over is able to book appointments for a dose.
Adults who don’t live in those areas but work there in certain jobs that deal with the public are also eligible. They include school workers, grocery store employees, convenience store clerks and restaurant staff.
More information on the hot spots, including a map highlighting the eligible neighbourhoods is available on the province’s website.
Previously only those 18 and over were eligible for the shot in Manitoba. The move to include those between 12 and 17 comes just hours after Health Canada authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents aged 12 to 15, meaning that the jab is now approved for anyone over the age of 12 in Canada.
Until now, the shot had only been approved for Canadians over the age of 16.
The announcement comes after the drugmakers said their vaccine was found to be safe and effective and produced robust antibody responses in 12- to 15-year-olds in a clinical trial late last month. The companies said more than 2,200 adolescents between 12 and 15 participated in the trial.
Canada is the first country in the world to extend this approval to children, federal officials said.
2nd dose appointments, more supersites
Officials also revealed more details about the province’s plans for how second doses of the vaccine will be administered Wednesday.
They say those who’ve gotten their first shot can begin making appointments for their second jab starting May 22. Manitobans who are immune-compromised or have other prioritized health conditions will be able to book their second dose appointments first, the province says.
The second doses will start being administered no later than mid-June, Botha said.
He said most of those who become eligible for their second dose will be notified by the province when it’s their turn for their other shot.
Once the first round of doses is done, the province aims to start administering second doses and have that done near the end of July.
Botha said more information on how the province plans to roll out the next phase of vaccinations will be provided in the coming days.
Meanwhile the province said a second super site vaccination clinic has been confirmed for the Interlake-Eastern Health region. The new large-scale clinic will open at the Gimli Recreation Centre by the end of May, Botha said.
A second super site is slated to open in Winnipeg May 7, another is set to open in Dauphin on May 10, and a new site in Steinbach will open May 18.
The province says pop-up clinics are scheduled in Winnipeg next week and in other locations throughout the province during the week of May 17.
The latest vaccination data shows 510,022 first and second doses have so far been administered throughout Manitoba.
To date Manitoba has received 650,640 doses of vaccine, including 425,880 doses of Pfizer, 140,500 doses of Moderna, and 84,260 doses of the AstraZeneca/Covishield vaccine.
The province says it expects to receive another 7,020 doses of Pfizer vaccine this week.
Health officials announced 272 new COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths Wednesday.
–With files from Rachel Gilmore and The Canadian Press
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