It’s time for Manitoba to call in the military to aid vaccine rollout, former EMO head says

The former head of Manitoba’s emergency measures organization thinks the military should be brought in to help with Manitoba’s vaccine rollout, which is behind its target.

“The premier should be requesting military assistance because they’re fantastic at these logistics,” said Chuck Sanderson, who was the executive director of the EMO from 2002 to 2013.

“It’s not like tanks rolling in. It’s like logistical people dressed like you and me who know how to do this and do it as a career that can help — not take over but assist.”

Sanderson says he finds it unacceptable the RBC Convention Centre remains the only running supersite in Winnipeg, and that some eligible seniors over 64 still must wait weeks before they can get their shots at the site.

“We have 780,000 people in the city of Winnipeg and we’re going into one location,” he said. “There should be at least three locations in this town.”

Province misses target 

The government said Tuesday 14.3 per cent of Manitobans aged 18 and up have been vaccinated with at least one dose.

Last week, a vaccine official said Manitoba would administer 6,566 doses per day in the coming week, but since then, only 5,491 jabs have been given daily.

We have 780,000 people in the city of Winnipeg and we’re going into one location. There should be at least three locations in this town.– Chuck Sanderson

CBC’s vaccine tracker shows 42 per cent of doses have not been used in Manitoba, with more than 155,000 vaccine doses not yet administered, according to provincial data made public on Tuesday.

Health Minister Heather Stefanson says the doses are accounted for through appointments, and Manitoba still doesn’t have enough vaccine supply from the federal government.

She says doses have been allocated to First Nations, pharmacies and doctors’ offices, and cites delays in data reporting from partners.

Health Minister Heather Stefanson says some of the more than 155,000 doses the province has on hand have been allocated to doctors offices, pharmacies and First Nations partners. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

“We don’t have the doses for the RBC Centre right now. If we did administer an extra 2,000 doses a day that would be taking away those doses from another super centre that have already been allocated,” she told reporters on Tuesday when asked why more than 155,000 doses Manitoba has received remain unused.

Over 60,000 fully vaccinated 

A government spokesperson says approximately 20,000 doses have been administered but not accounted for in the data, and says that doesn’t include vaccines given by First Nations.

Opposition NDP Leader Wab Kinew says the province needs to give the vaccine roll out greater urgency.

“This is very high stakes,” he said. “Everyone’s wanting to see this thing succeed, so let’s just make sure that we get those doses out of the fridges, where far too many are today, and into people’s arms.”

The most recent federal data shows only Nova Scotia has done a worse job in giving out at least one dose of the vaccine.

But Manitoba is among the best for having fully immunized people. More than 60,000 Manitobans have received both jabs because the province kept all second dose appointments made before the switch to delaying doses, unlike many other jurisdictions.

The government says it is planning several new future supersites and pop-up clinics that will be announced in the coming weeks, and said it is working on reducing the data backlog within a week.