Vaccine information dominates COVID update

·7 min read

Manitobans heard again Wednesday not to expect much change in restrictions in the near future. Details were also provided on the current situation with vaccines and the freshly launched hunt for a provincial director of immunization. The current public health orders expire at the end of day Friday, but Dr. Jazz Atwal, the acting deputy chief provincial public health officer, could not say when an update on those would be available, only that the details were being worked out. There was a rise in new cases — 176, as compared to lower numbers in past days — with 10 new deaths. “We’ve been asking you to restrict your life for eight weeks. That’s a long time. Today’s numbers are a bit higher, but the restrictions in place have made a difference and will continue to make a difference,” Atwal said. “I’m asking you to keep going. We have other holidays coming up, such as Ukrainian Christmas.” Atwal reported nearly 60 cases and more than 400 contacts have been linked to holiday gatherings. “We were worried about a spike following the holidays, and those numbers will influence the decisions about what kind of changes can be made in the restrictions in the coming days,” he said. But the current ins and outs of COVID-19 vaccination dominated the province’s update. Asked why the province was just now looking to hire a director of immunization, Dr. Joss Reimer, medical officer of health, Manitoba Health and Seniors Care, and a member of Manitoba’s COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Task Force, said it is looking to the future. “Our immunization campaign is going to be going on for many months in the future,” Reimer said. “Currently, we have an amazing team, but it’s folks who have been pulled from other parts of government, from other parts of Health. And, we would like to expand our team and be thinking about how we can continue to do this in the best way possible, while still seeing some of our workers go back to some of the services that they were providing.” To date, Manitoba has received a total of 22,230 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which includes approximately 7,000 doses delivered yesterday, according to a bulletin from the province released after the live update. Further, as of Wednesday morning, 5,165 people have been immunized using the Pfizer vaccine. “There are currently about 17,000 doses of Pfizer in the province, which will be used for the remainder of this week’s immunizations (5,250) as well as the 6,650 appointments for first- and second-dose immunizations that will be scheduled at the super site next week,” the province stated. Reimer said there have been questions about the province’s inventory of vaccine, and what it’s doing to ensure that Manitobans are immunized as quickly as possible. “I can say that our first clinic at Rady was a success. The entire stock of vaccine that we had at that facility was used, with none remaining at the end of that,” she said. That immunization clinic, at the University of Manitoba’s Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at the Bannatyne campus, concluded Dec. 31. Reimer further said hundreds of people are now being vaccinated daily at the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg. According to the bulletin, plans for the Moderna vaccine will be provided in the coming weeks. The province’s first shipment of 7,300 doses has been allocated to immunize First Nations communities and personal care home residents. Plans are also being made to ensure Brandon’s super site at the Keystone Centre, which opens Jan. 18, and Thompson’s, which opens Feb. 1, have an adequate supply. “In the early stages, we were retaining a higher number of doses because the shipments and the number of doses were still uncertain. So, because we didn’t know exactly when and how many of the doses would be arriving, we wanted to make sure that we had enough for the people who were coming into the clinic,” Reimer said. “We needed to make sure that we had enough in the freezer for our first clinic, then again, when we were opening up our first super site.” Moving forward, this will not be the case, she added, as the province expects delivery from the federal government will become more predictable and will arrive when they’re supposed to. The federal government is responsible for procurement. Reimer also reported on adverse effects to the vaccine. “The adverse events following immunization are quite rare, but they’re expected in every immunization campaign,” she said, adding the concern is with an unexpected or more serious reaction from what’s typically seen. The province will be updating Manitobans on such events on a weekly basis. So far, there have been four such events in the province, with two people requiring no further care and two requiring emergency-room care. One of those two have fully recovered, with details forthcoming on the second. The province expects that approximately two per cent of the population will be vaccinated by the end of January and four per cent by the end of February, according to the bulletin. “However, by increasing the number of immunizers working in super sites, the province can accelerate the pace of vaccination on a very efficient basis to meet any future increases in supply from federal allocations, or as additional vaccines are approved for use in Canada,” the province stated. Premier Brian Pallister said Wednesday that all Manitobans who wanted a vaccine could be immunized by the end of March if the doses were available from the federal government. Reimer said she wouldn’t speculate on whether the province would be able to vaccinate 1.3 million Manitobans in a defined amount of time. “But I can absolutely confirm that we do have a scale-up plan in place and could increase our numbers substantially, fairly quickly, if the vaccine were available,” she said.WEDNESDAY’S COVID-19 UPDATEThe COVID-19 update from the province on Wednesday saw 10 additional deaths listed, and 176 new cases. Nine were removed due to data correction, making the new total 167. New cases are as follows: - 11 cases in the Interlake–Eastern health region; - 31 cases in the Northern health region; - 12 in the Prairie Mountain Health region; - 13 cases in the Southern Health–Santé Sud health region; and - 109 cases in the Winnipeg health region. The current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate was 10.4 in the province, and 11.5 per cent in Winnipeg. Lab-confirmed cases in Manitoba total 25,541, with 705 deaths or 2.76 per cent. The province also reported 237 people are in hospital with active COVID-19, as well as 92 people in hospital with COVID-19 who are no longer infectious but continue to require care, for a total of 329 hospitalizations. Thirty two people are in intensive care units with active COVID-19, as well as five people with COVID-19 who are no longer infectious but continue to require critical care, for a total of 37 ICU patients. Tuesday, 1,845 tests were completed, for a total of 430,597since February. » Source: Province of Manitoba

TUESDAY’S VACCINATION NUMBERSOn Tuesday, 871 people received the COVID-19 vaccine at the immunization super site at RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg. The people immunized against COVID-19 to date include: • 3,938 from the Winnipeg health region • 534 from the Southern Health–Santé Sud health region • 398 from the Interlake–Eastern health region • 214 from Prairie Mountain Health • 23 from the Northern health region » Source: Province of Manitoba

CURRENT VACCINE ELIGIBILITY CRITERIAThere are no changes to the eligibility criteria for immunization as of Wednesday. However, additional clarification was provided. Those eligible include health care workers who have direct contact with patients and: • work in critical care units (intensive care units only, no age restrictions) • work in long-term care facilities, born on or before Dec. 31, 1975 • work in acute care facilities, born on or before Dec. 31, 1975 • assigned to a COVID-19 immunization clinic or designated COVID-19 testing site (no age restrictions) • work in a laboratory handling COVID-19 specimens (no age restrictions and may include some individuals who do not have direct contact with patients, based on their role) • work on a designated COVID-19 hospital ward (no age restrictions); and • work in provincial or federal correctional facilities (no age restrictions). » Source: Province of Manitoba

Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun