In an attempt to combat lethargic immunization numbers, Manitoba’s government is putting $14 million into a campaign to support community and one-on-one outreach to boost the number of doses and improve vaccine access, premier Kelvin Goertzen said Tuesday.
“As we move forward, our immunization strategy is shifting toward work at the community level to increase vaccination rates in the province to help protect our schools, our places of worship, our businesses and our health-care system,” said Goertzen.
“This financial support will help health-care workers across Manitoba engage in more targeted local outreach with the confidence and tools they need to make a difference in our immunization rates, one person and one community at a time.”
Health minister Audrey Gordon said the campaign will allow Manitoba doctors’ offices to reach out directly to patients who aren’t fully immunized and have a conversation about any questions or concerns they may have.
The funding will go toward physicians’ fees and administrative costs related to those doctors’ office visits.
“For the thousands of people who are still not immunized, and unprotected against the risks of COVID-19, we recognize the importance of hearing about the benefits of the vaccine from their trusted doctor or pharmacist close to home,” she said.
“It’s also critical that we provide tools to the regional health authorities and health-care providers who are having ongoing conversations with people about the vaccine.”
The province is also working with Doctors Manitoba, the Manitoba College of Family Physicians, and the University of Manitoba, to create a training and support program for physicians and pharmacists in communities with low vaccine uptake — based on a similar approach in British Columbia.
Some experts believe incentivizing health care workers to get Manitobans vaccinated isn’t the right approach.
“The offer is rather insulting to Manitoba doctors,” University of Manitoba ethics professor Arthur Schafer said.
“It presumes they won’t vigorously promote vaccination to their patients unless they’re given a financial bribe to do so.”
Others are pointing out that different avenues of providing incentives have already been exhausted.
“Having a financial incentive isn’t going to be something that’s actually going to make me change my mind,” University of Manitoba Community Health Sciences Professor Michelle Driedger said.
“If I have question or concerns, a chance for me to win at a lottery isn’t going to set those aside so we know we need different approaches.”