Delay in shipments leads Manitoba to plan fewer COVID-19 vaccinations

·2 min read

WINNIPEG — Manitoba health officials say delays in getting COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech will force the province to sharply reduce the number of injections planned for February.

The province says it is planning for incoming supplies to be cut in half.

The federal government announced Tuesday that Canada is not getting any COVID-19 vaccine doses from Pfizer-BioNTech next week.

"We originally were told we would be receiving 18,720 doses (in the next two weeks) and our new estimate is 9,360," Dr. Joss Reimer, a member of the province's vaccine committee, said Wednesday.

There are enough doses for all appointments currently booked, but fewer appointments will be scheduled next month, Reimer said. The goal of administering an average of 2,500 doses a day in February is being reduced to 1,496 daily.

In the unlikely event that supply delays continue and the province does not receive any doses in the first week of February, its current supply of the Pfizer vaccine would be used up and appointments would begin to be cancelled, Reimer said.

The revised outlook comes just as Manitoba is ramping up its vaccination capacity. A so-called supersite, which can handle hundreds of vaccinations a day, opened this week in Brandon and another is planned for early February in Thompson.

Because of the supply issues with the Pfizer vaccine, the Thompson site will instead use the Moderna vaccine, the only other one approved in Canada to date.

Health officials reported 153 new COVID-19 cases and five additional deaths Wednesday. Manitoba's numbers, including the number of people in hospital and the percentage of people testing positive, have dropped since a spike in the fall.

The provincial government is considering easing some of the restrictions that were put in place in November by this weekend, subject to public feedback. The proposals include letting non-essential stores reopen, as well as hair salons and barber shops, and easing a ban on social gatherings in private homes to allow two visitors at a time.

"I know that people are eager to reduce restrictions, especially businesses," said Dr. Jazz Atwal, acting deputy chief public health officer.

"But we need to be cautious. We can't open everything at once."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2021

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press