Roussin, Reimer reflect on the past year

·3 min read

Dr. Brent Roussin and Dr. Joss Reimer both had occasion to speak this week about one year at the helm of pandemic management.

Roussin is the province’s chief public health officer, and Reimer is the medical lead for the vaccine implementation task force.

"In some ways, it feels like it’s been a lot more than a year and, in some ways, I can’t believe that we’re already a year since the first case. It has been a bit of a blur, I think, for most of us in public health, who haven’t had much of a chance to take a breath in the last year," said Reimer.

However, she said she was pleasantly surprised with how quickly vaccines became available.

"We’ve never seen the whole world come together to work so efficiently creating a new vaccine like we have, in this case. If you would have asked me in the fall when I thought a vaccine would be ready, I would not have said December," she said.

"I would have thought it would have been into 2021."

Reimer said it has been exciting to play a small role in getting Manitoba back to some version of normal, and as part of an amazing team.

The province deployed almost 700,000 vaccines in 2009 and 2010.

"Now we’re talking about millions of doses. So we set up brand new supersites, pop-up clinics and these tailored FIT (focused immunization) teams. And I think most of us on the task force are eager to get going even more than we are," said Reimer.

Roussin said it’s tough to sum up the year — but he walked through the peaks and valleys.

"The pre-pandemic stage seems like a different lifetime ago to me and other people. I think that, early on, we went from hearing of a virus that we weren’t yet sure of its pandemic potential to one that quickly made its way around the world to quickly cause a lot of morbidity and mortality," he said.

He also mentioned the risk presented by international travel, then community transmission. Next came a fairly nice spring and summer.

"Only to be hit with a very hard second wave," said Roussin.

"Now we’re back to where we were in the spring and summer, where we start seeing numbers trending down. So we have to be really cognizant that we can’t see that repeat of what we had in November and December. We have to stay cognizant of that."

The vaccine needs to be rolled out, and it would be challenging to do with a 10 or 14 per cent positivity rate the province experienced in the fall and winter.

Reimer said the task force cannot wait to get more doses and get them to Manitobans as quickly as possible.

"Get this year behind us as quickly as possible, as well, and maybe start to feel a bit more normal as we go into the summer," she said.

Roussin said there absolutely is reason to be optimistic.

"But that doesn’t mean we can let our guard down."

Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun