Manitoba ramps up COVID-19 vaccine plan with clinics, doctors' offices, pharmacies

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WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is stepping up its COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan by using pop-up clinics, doctors' offices and pharmacies.

Temporary one-day or half-day pop-up clinics will travel to Portage la Prairie, Flin Flon, Dauphin and other communities starting next week now that vaccines are becoming more widely available.

Until now, people have had to go to so-called super-sites in major centres such as Winnipeg and Brandon.

The vaccines will be available to First Nations people aged 60 and over and other Manitobans aged 80 and over.

Some younger people with certain underlying health conditions are getting their first shots in the coming days.

Some 18,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine are being shipped to pharmacies and doctors' offices.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is not recommended for people aged 65 and up, so it will be aimed at First Nations people aged 30-64 and others aged 50-64 at greater risk of severe outcomes.

Those include people with serious heart conditions or renal failure, pregnant women with hypertension or diabetes, and people who receive home care for four days a week or more.

"There are some people with high-risk conditions that are more likely to have serious outcomes ... and that's truly who we need to immunize as quickly as possible," Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, said Wednesday.

The number of people with those underlying conditions exceeds the amount of available Oxford-AstraZeneca doses, she added.

"So we are asking the docs and the pharmacists to identify, within the people that they have access to, the highest-risk individuals. Because they're in the best position to do that case-by-case medical assessment of somebody's risk."

Hundreds of pharmacies and medical clinics have signed up to help distribute vaccines, and the province now has the capacity to deliver about 19,000 doses a day through all of its channels, Johanu Botha, a vaccine task force co-lead, said.

The limiting factor, for the time being, is the national supply of vaccines, but the province expects supplies to ramp up sharply in the coming weeks.

The province had earlier said it expected to offer first doses to all eligible Manitoba adults sometime between mid-May and the end of June, depending on the steady flow of vaccine supplies.

Things now look a little more optimistic, Botha said, and the latter date has been moved up to mid-June.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 10, 2021

The Canadian Press