The Manitoba government is enlisting more than two dozen community groups, churches and businesses in the first wave of an outreach program aimed at driving up COVID-19 vaccination rates.
The program, first announced four weeks ago, offers grants of up to $20,000 each to groups that work with people in areas where vaccine uptake is low.
“Accessibility issues, physical location, language barriers, cultural and religious beliefs and practices — all of these things can contribute to making one hesitant,” Premier Brian Pallister said Tuesday.
One group that helps disadvantaged people in the Steinbach area southeast of Winnipeg, where vaccination rates are low, will host a barbecue where medical professionals will answer questions.
New Flyer Industries, which manufactures buses, will hold vaccination clinics at some of its workplace sites.
The Hindu Society of Manitoba will host two one-day vaccination clinics. Society president Kirit Thakrar said a language barrier and questions about which brand of vaccine is best have caused some in the community to be hesitant.
The percentage of Manitobans aged 12 and up who have had at last one dose has topped 73 per cent, but growth has slowed in recent weeks.
Pallister said the province needs about 51,000 more people to get a first dose by Labour Day in order to reach a target of 80 per cent, which would help trigger an end to many restrictions on public gatherings and businesses.
While uptake has been very high in some age groups and in many geographic areas of the province, it has been very low in some regions.
Three health districts in rural southern Manitoba have had fewer than 40 per cent of people aged 12 and up receive a dose, even though there are large-scale government vaccination sites in the area.
The Progressive Conservative government said it expects to award more grants to community groups and businesses in the coming weeks. The grants revealed Tuesday totalled $390,000.
The announcement came as Manitoba saw another day of improving COVID-19 statistics. There were 61 new cases, down from a peak of more than 600 last month, and no additional deaths. The five-day test positivity rate stood at 6.3 per cent provincially and 5.8 per cent in Winnipeg.