Readers Ask: Vaccine for police, kids' mental health, town hall

·4 min read

Brandon Sun readers request specific questions be asked about COVID-19.

QUESTION: Why are front-line workers like Brandon city police officers not being immunized when they are in direct contact with proven COVID-positive people each day? They have received no answers as to why they are not on the list, nor are they informed of people who are COVID-positive. What are their exposure rates versus that of emergency departments?

DR. JOSS REIMER: We were very careful when we came up with the priority list for who get access in the very first groups, when we’re talking about such a small proportion of the total population.

We looked at a number of different factors. We looked at, as you’re mentioning, likelihood of being exposed to the virus. But we also looked at things like you know the critical nature of that service for our health-care system. So that’s where you see things like the critical care units getting first priority because not only are they potentially exposed to the virus when caring for patients, but they also are an essential part of the most difficult work in the health-care system, where Manitobans need to be able to rely on that service being available.

So there’s a lot of different factors that we have to consider concurrently. It’s not just a matter of whether or not people are exposed. We’re also looking to see how many of the individuals in each population group have been shown to be infected. So are there mechanisms that we can protect people, and how effective are they apart from vaccinations?

We’re seeing more cases amongst folks who work in acute care, those who work in personal care homes and those who work in group homes. Those appear to be the areas of where front-line workers have been experiencing more infections than groups like police officers, for example. All of these factors came into our decision-making and will continue to inform as we move through further priority groups.

There are so many essential workers in health care and outside of health care, who take care of Manitobans every day, and if I could give them to all adults, I would do that today. But we just have such a limited supply that we had to have these really difficult discussions around where are we going to get the most critical workers protected, for the reasons that I just mentioned. And at some point, we had to draw lines because we just simply have such a small amount of vaccine available.

QUESTION: Over the past week, we’ve heard that mental health is important. What is being done to recognize the sacrifices of kids and rewarding them for their hard work during this time? With the emergence of the let kids play petition, for example, this past weekend, and overwhelming support from the public, will the province reconsider organized youth sports prior to the next set of restriction reviews?

DR. BRENT ROUSSIN: Well, we never really take anything off the table. We’re continually looking at those orders.

I can speak even from personal experience. Both of my children are involved in sports, and you really miss seeing them out there. So this affects all sorts of Manitobans.

What we do know is this is what we had in the fall and we saw transmission occur in these events. We just can’t open everything up, there’s a lot of important things out there. A lot of impact on many different people’s mental health, economic impacts. But we just can’t be back to where we were in November.

These are the tough choices that we make, but we have to do things in a cautious way. There’s no reason to think that if we open things up again to where we were in October that we would get a different result this time. At that level opening, we are on a trajectory to overrun our health-care system, to cause a lot of hospitalizations, a lot of deaths to Manitobans. So we need to be very cautious.

QUESTION: Previously, Dr. Roussin hosted a telephone town hall so that Manitobans could seek clarification directly. Will Dr. Roussin host another town hall within the next week or two prior to the next restrictions review?

ROUSSIN: Good question. I’m not sure. I think it would be something we’d consider. We had real good feedback, enjoyed speaking to Manitobans on those sessions. So I think it’ll be something that we’ll certainly look at.

Do you have a question about something in your community? Send your questions to opinion@brandonsun.com with the subject line: Readers Ask.

Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun