Glitches hit rollout of vaccine super site

·5 min read

As Manitoba prepared to open its first COVID-19 vaccination super site today, officials backtracked to fix a miscommunication error that directed hundreds of health-care workers to show up to appointments at the wrong address.

The province plans to administer 40,000 doses of vaccine — many of them at the new RBC Convention Centre in downtown Winnipeg — during the first month of 2021.

The first rounds of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccinations in Winnipeg were administered at the University of Manitoba’s Max Rady College of Medicine, but that clinic closed before the new year.

A total of 871 people with appointments today, however, received misleading texts over the weekend about their upcoming shots taking place at the now-shuttered site.

The vaccination services team sent reminders informing people to visit 727 McDermot Ave. instead of 375 York Ave., the correct location, at their assigned time.

“It’s really unfortunate that there continues to be evidence of poor planning and poor rollout,” said Bob Moroz, president of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals.

Moroz said what may seem like minor inconveniences, such as the lengthy initial vaccine booking wait times and the ask of professionals to get vaccinated off-the-clock and at sites far away from their workplaces, “pile up at the feet of our members.”

The result is frustration and severe mental health consequences, he said.

A provincial spokesperson said corrections would be issued late Sunday and all of the individuals will receive a text with the correct address in it three hours before their scheduled slot.

The issue has been addressed so it doesn’t happen again, the spokesperson said in a statement to the Free Press.

On Sunday afternoon, approximately 2,000 appointments remained available for eligible health-care workers. The booking line is open to anyone who fits the criteria from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily until the spaces are filled.

Eligible medical professionals must work directly with patients and meet at least one of the following criteria: work in a critical care unit; work in a long-term care facility and are 45 years of age or older; work in an acute care facility and are older than 45; or work at a COVID-19 immunization clinic or testing site.

Dating back to Dec. 16, when the first shot was administered, there have been approximately 3,432 immunizations in Manitoba.

Manitoba currently has the lowest per-capita vaccination rate of all Canadian provinces, according to COVID19tracker.ca, which includes a national vaccination tracker compiled by Noah Little, a University of Saskatchewan student.

The tracker shows 250 doses have been administered per 100,000 residents in Manitoba.

A pause on the vaccination program over the holidays and glitches in trying to book immunization appointments through the province’s phone line are among rollout concerns raised in recent weeks.

Given how massive the initiative is, Darlene Jackson of the Manitoba Nurses Union said Sunday she is forgiving about minor mistakes — as long as they are corrected in a timely fashion.

“This is a pandemic we’ve never seen before in the proportions we’ve never seen before,” Jackson said Sunday. “So I think that, as a province, we’re all learning to live with the new normal and we’re all learning that not everything goes to plan.”

On Sunday, the province announced five additional deaths and 101 new cases of the virus, bringing the total tally of positive cases in Manitoba up to 25,126.

The notice was issued after an unusually low day of tests, only 995 in total.

In the Manitoba capital, a man in his 30s, a woman in her 80s, a second woman in her 80s, whose death is linked to the outbreak at Lions Housing Centres Personal Care Home, and a woman in her 90s whose death is connected to the Convalescent Home of Winnipeg outbreak, have succumbed to the virus.

A man in his 70s from Southern Health–Santé Sud has also died.

The outbreak at St. Anthony’s General Hospital Acute Care Inpatient Unit in The Pas is over, the province noted in its Sunday release.

Meantime, Ottawa confirmed Sunday the military has left Shamattawa First Nation; of the 400 confirmed cases, only 33 remain active in the community.

The Canadian Armed Forces is also to withdraw entirely from Red Sucker Lake First Nation by Jan. 6, three weeks after members arrived to help set-up isolation areas and distribute food, fire and care packages

Province-wide, the test positivity rate is 10.5 per cent. It is 11.3 per cent in Winnipeg.

“We’re certainly on the right track, but our optimism still has to be enhanced by our action,” said Cynthia Carr, Winnipeg-based epidemiologist and founder of EPI Research Inc.

If Manitobans broke public health directives and gathered over the holidays, there will be a “much faster escalation” of cases within the next week, Carr said.

While Carr is hopeful that won’t be the case, she said she’s in support of requiring Grade 7 to 12 students study at home for the first two weeks of school after the break, especially now that the more infectious virus strain has arrived in Canada.

The launch of Manitoba’s remote learning support centre is expected to coincide Monday with the return of students to both in-person and online classes.

Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press