Manitoba premier tours Winnipeg convention centre set to become COVID-19 immunization super site

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister spent his first afternoon of 2021 touring the COVID-19 immunization super site that’s opening in downtown Winnipeg Friday.

Earlier this week, eligible health-care workers were receiving their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the University of Manitoba’s Bannatyne campus. But on Jan. 4, Manitoba’s first immunization super site will open at the RBC Convention Centre.

A couple of Winnipeg police officers kept watch while Premier Pallister, who did not speak to news media Friday, toured the facility.

The entire setup is on the ground floor of the north building of the convention centre. Free indoor parking is provided in the main convention centre parkade.

People showing up for their immunization will enter the main entrance on York Avenue and line up. Metal fencing is in place to guide the lineup to maximize the amount of people inside, and there are floor stickers indicating two-metres distance.

Manitobans got a look at the province’s new COVID-19 vaccination centre at Winnipeg’s RBC Convention Centre, Friday, Jan. 1, 2021. The centre will be opening Monday and will inoculate 900-1,200 people in it’s first week. (The Canadian Press/John Woods)

Once through the lineup, people will walk up to tables to check in. That’s where they will have to answer screening questions and provide the necessary identification.

From there, people will enter a waiting room that contains about 100 chairs that are all two metres apart from each other. When a person’s name is called, they will enter a large ballroom with at least 30 physically distanced tables that are set up similarly to a mobile blood donor clinic. This is where the vaccine is administered.

Eligible Manitobans waiting for their vaccination at the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg will wait here until their name is called. (The Canadian Press/John Woods)

Adjacent to the large ballroom is an area for first aid. That is in case of general accidents, for example and slip and fall, or if people have a reaction after receiving their immunization.

Also next to the ballroom are storage areas that hold personal protective equipment, syringes and sanitizer, as well as three fridges. One of the fridges is set at -75 C, the other two are set at -26 C. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine must be stored in ultra-low-temperature freezers at -70 C, while the Moderna vaccine must be stored in a freezer at – 20 C.

Once a person receives their COVID-19 vaccine dose and is allowed to leave, they will exit via the southwest corner of the building.

Roughly 3,400 first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been administered since they arrived in December, according to the vaccine bulletin issued by the Manitoba government Thursday.

As of Thursday, about 2,900 appointments to receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the RBC Convention Centre from Jan. 4-10 were already made. There remain about 3,200 open appointment slots, the bulletin said.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister got a look at the province’s new COVID-19 vaccination centre at Winnipeg’s Convention Centre Friday. (The Canadian Press/John Woods)

Health-care workers dealing directly with patients in critical care units and COVID-19 immunization clinics or testing sites are eligible for the vaccine. Health workers who work with patients at long-term or acute care facilities, and who were born by Dec. 31, 1972, are also eligible.

Assuming the necessary supply is available, the Manitoba government expects to have enough vaccine to administer roughly 10,000 doses per week during the month of January, according to a vaccine bulletin issued Dec. 23.

Other super sites in Brandon, Man., and Thompson, Man., are slated to open in the coming weeks, the bulletin said. The Keystone Centre in Brandon should open on Jan. 18, while a site next to the Thompson airport will open on Feb. 1 to serve Manitobans in the northern region.

WATCH | Touring Winnipeg’s COVID-19 immunization super site

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister toured the COVID-19 immunization super site at the RBC Convention Centre in downtown Winnipeg . The site opens Monday. 1:52