Pallister tours Brandon's vaccination site ahead of Monday launch

·7 min read

Premier Brian Pallister, along with Heather Stefanson, his new Minister of Health and Seniors Care, travelled to Brandon Wednesday to tour the Keystone Centre — the location of the province’s second major vaccination site.

The site is set to open Monday, and it will run seven days a week, 12 hours a day, beginning at 8:30 a.m. Three trays of Pfizer vaccine — at 1,170 doses per tray — with three trays planned for the following week will be at the site. Vaccine destined for Brandon is based on a delivery schedule from the federal government. Trays are allocated based on demand, with population taken into account.

The first shipment has arrived in Brandon.

The first site to open was in Winnipeg, at the RBC Convention Centre, and the third, set to open in early February, will be in Thompson.

Pallister appeared enthusiastic as he exited the centre after his tour.

“This is an exciting advance in our exciting plans to get vaccines into the arms of Manitobans as fast as we can. But, we want to get it right first. This super site in Brandon is going to be a key part of getting it right,” he said.

Pallister said he had the opportunity to see the 21 vaccination stations that have been set up, the check-in areas, the seating arrangements, the flow management and the safety processes.

“The preparatory work that’s gone on, not just here in Westman, and not just here at this centre, but right across the province … The team, getting up close to 1,000 people, that’s been working so, so diligently to get us ready for these vaccines deserves to be commended and thanked. And, I thank them today,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the province held a technical briefing about the vaccination program. Staff who are working on a variety of aspects related to the vaccine roll out provided background information for the press.

There are six delivery models for vaccines: the pilot site at Rady located at the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba; super sites; focused immunization teams, for personal care homes and other congregate living locations; pop-up and mobile sites for neighbourhood and community facilities; First Nation sites; and, as vaccines become more available and stable, distributed delivery to medical offices and pharmacies.

Each of these models can scale up as doses of vaccine become more readily available.

Based on current supply projections, the province hopes to average 1,563 injections per day in January, with a peak of 2,503 doses. February will be closer to 2,500. But, based on current staffing and operational capacity, the province said it could deliver an additional 420,363 vaccinations by the end of April, if doses were available.

Also, based on planned expansions of clinic and staffing capacity, the province said it could deliver 1,808,204 vaccinations by the end of April, if doses were available.

As far as staffing goes, the province has in hand many applications yet to be screened, and soon a service provider will take over the task of screening and background checks.

The province, in the past few days, has also been stressing it isn’t stockpiling doses, that it is making full use of its inventory. But, it also wants to ensure that it has inventory on hand to cover all first-dose and second-dose appointments. The federal government supplies provinces with delivery weeks, not specific delivery days, so the provincial government will not drop inventory to zero.

The full slide presentation is available at https://bit.ly/2LJBCUW

While thanking all those who have stepped forward to work at the vaccination sites, Pallister said more people are needed because “we want to be ready in case we do have the federal government give us more vaccines.”

“We want to be ready to get those vaccines out as quickly as we can.”

But, by the end of the month, only 1 per cent of Manitobans would be vaccinated, taking into account available vaccine, Pallister admitted.

Pallister also said residents at personal care homes in the area would begin receiving their vaccinations Friday.

“I know the residents here (in Brandon) and all over Westman are really excited about that. Those projects will continue with enthusiasm. We hope to have our (personal care home) residents all safely vaccinated for the second time in not much more than a month,” he said.

Speaking with The Brandon Sun after Pallister’s appearance at the Keystone Centre, NDP Leader Wab Kinew offered a few thoughts on the government’s process.

“I think people in Westman and across the province deserve to hear more details on the overall vaccine roll-out. I’m not saying the province needs to announce the dates today about how these things are going to happen, but I think they should announce the order of some key steps,” Kinew said, adding experts are indicating that if people know they can get the shot at their doctor’s office or local pharmacy, that can help overcome vaccine hesitance.

Kinew said milestones are significant, including the order in which varying populations will be vaccinated.

“Manitobans are right to expect more details,” he said.

“I think the government is holding back some of the details because they don’t want to be judged if, let’s say, the shot doesn’t get into your local pharmacy by late spring or summer. They’re trying to avoid being held to account.

He said the more information that’s shared with the public during the pandemic, the better, and the vaccine is an important part of that. And, while he accepts officials don’t know when a shipment might increase from 5,000 doses to 50,000 doses, he said the government could say that when a shipment reaches 50,000, vaccination could be opened up to this or that group.

“Maybe some of those milestones are, when we hit this target (of doses), then we’re going to be able to roll it out in the pharmacy, then we’ll be able to roll it out in the doctors’ offices,” Kinew said.

“I think it’s reasonable for Manitobans to have a roadmap. I’m sure Manitobans will be reasonable if we don’t get the doses in time.”

When asked about teachers, as a possible group, or front-line service providers working with the most vulnerable urban population — such as at Brandon’s Samaritan House Ministries’ Safe and Warm Shelter, Pallister said prioritization is a medical question.

“Our vaccination team has medical expertise in abundance, and they are going to determine the prioritizations as far as vaccine availability going forward. I have had numerous discussions on this topic, because I know people are very anxious because they want to know when might I be able to get that vaccine, in whatever occupational group,” Pallister said.

“I’ve noticed already that some other countries and jurisdictions have rolled out their hypothetical strategies, and I would like to see us put those out for people to have a chance to discuss, too. Many jurisdictions are using age as the principal criteria. That’s one approach. But, I’ll leave this to the medical experts to determine when they move forward on that.”

The province’s goal is to have 70 per cent of adult Manitobans who want to receive the vaccine to be vaccinated by the end of 2021. But, so far shipments are only known a few weeks in advance. No-one knows how the landscape will change in the coming weeks and months as more vaccines are developed, joining Pfizer and Moderna.

Both Pallister and Stefanson reminded Manitobans that as the vaccination program rolls out, diligence is still required, referring to the fundamentals and public health orders.

“I would remind Manitobans that their decisions to do their duty, to be responsible, are the reason that we are able to say that we are bending the COVID curve, but we’re not there yet. And, so, it’s important not to let down our guard,” Pallister said.

Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun