Manitobans 85 and older now eligible: The latest COVID-19 vaccine info

The list of who can get the COVID-19 vaccine in Manitoba and where they can get it changes with nearly each passing day, as more vaccines arrive in the province, new vaccines become available and more sites open.

So far, Manitoba has received more than 120,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. On March 5, Health Canada announced it had approved the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson.

That announcement came one week after the regulator gave the green light to the shot from AstraZeneca and Oxford University, which the Manitoba government has said would speed up the pace of vaccine distribution in the province.

CBC Manitoba has compiled the latest information to help Manitobans figure out whether they are eligible and how to get an appointment:

  • Age categories: Check here to see the latest age eligibility, as well as timelines for future eligibility.
  • First Nations: First Nations people can access the vaccine at ages 20 years younger than the general population.
  • Front-line workers: New categories of workers continue to be added to the eligibility list.
  • Vaccination locations: The province plans to offer the vaccine through more supersites.

How to book an appointment

Family members or caregivers will be allowed to make appointments on behalf of someone else, but will need to provide the number on the health card of the person getting the vaccine. The number to call for appointments is 1-844-626-8222, and the line is open daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. CT.

People calling to book an appointment can expect to hear an automated voice recording for initial eligibility screening, then an eligibility questionnaire conducted by the person who answers the phone.

They’ll collect the caller’s information, including contact details. There is also a callback option available instead of waiting on the phone.

As of March 5, the province has stopped booking second-dose appointments on the same call, and will instead notify people when it’s time for a second dose. People who already have an appointment to get their second dose can keep it.

The province’s website also has a list of what to bring to your vaccination appointment.

On Feb. 24, Manitoba released its updated vaccine rollout plan, including plans for an online booking process to make vaccination appointments. That option will be available soon, the province says.

When can my age group get vaccinated?

On March 3, the Manitoba government announced that it would start basing vaccine eligibility on age at the time of booking, rather than birth year, in order to make the information easier to understand.

All Manitobans age 85 and older, and First Nations people 65 and older, are now eligible for the vaccine.

If you aren’t working somewhere risky, you’ll likely get vaccinated based on your age.

On March 3, Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead on Manitoba’s vaccine task force, said Manitobans age 50 to 64 with health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 will likely be prioritized for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Timelines vary depending on how much vaccine Manitoba receives from the federal government, and assume 70 per cent of eligible people actually take the vaccine.

The plan, which was updated again on March 5, outlines two scenarios: one with a low supply and one with high numbers of doses.

The first scenario makes some assumptions, including that more doses will arrive by the end of June.

The second scenario assumes the previously approved vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca-Oxford will be available along with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — which had not yet been approved when the province drafted its latest plan — and a vaccine from Novavax, which has not yet been approved.

Under the low-supply scenario, vaccinations among the youngest cohort of the general population are expected to be finished by the end of June. The finish line under the high-supply scenario is set for May 18.

All dates are estimates based on federal supplies. Each group starts with the oldest and moves down in one-year increments.

80+

Regardless of high or low supply, those 80 years of age and over are expected to get vaccinated between March 1 and 15. The province started with those 95 years of age and over — several thousand people — on Feb. 24 and is working its way down in one-year increments. 

70-79

  • Low-supply scenario: March 10-April 5
  • High-supply scenario: March 10-April 5

60-69

  • Low supply: April 1-April 15
  • High supply: April 1-April 15

50-59

  • Low supply: April 15-May 7
  • High supply: April 5-April 20

40-49

  • Low supply: May 3-May 17
  • High supply: April 8-April 22

30-39

  • Low supply: June 1-June 14
  • High supply: April 22-May 5

18-29

  • Low supply: June 10-June 30
  • High supply: May 3-May 18

Under 18
There are no details for those in this age category. Vaccines from Moderna, AstraZeneca-Oxford and Johnson & Johnson are currently authorized for those 18 and over, while Pfizer-BioNTech’s is 16 and older.

What if I work in a high-risk setting?

Those working in the riskiest of settings — hospitals — already started receiving their vaccines in mid-December as part of Stage 1 of the province’s vaccination plan.

In its original plan, the province estimated all health workers would be vaccinated by the end of March, regardless of whether the it received a high or low supply.

That timeline was extended by four months under the low-supply scenario, to July 30, while under the high-supply it’s May 28.

The original plan had health-care workers vaccinated in four stages, with dates for when vaccinations for each group would begin and end. The latest update indicates that health-care workers should be vaccinated by the end of March in both low and high range scenarios. 

As of Feb. 24, people working in labs that handle COVID-19 specimens, licensed personal care homes, alternative isolation accommodation facilities and COVID-19 vaccination or test sites are eligible to get immunized.

People who work in congregate living facilities and were born on or before Dec. 31, 1960, are also eligible. Those groups can book appointments whether or not they have direct contact with patients or residents.

People who work in certain community services settings are also eligible. That includes those providing direct care in homeless shelters, family violence shelters, emergency placement shelters and second-stage housing.

It also includes people working in Community Living disABILITY Services and child and family services, though Manitoba Families will identify eligible staff there and contact them directly to make vaccination appointments.

People working in a slew of other settings in Manitoba are also eligible to get vaccinated, as long as they have direct contact with patients or residents.

Those places include acute care facilities, emergency response and specialty patient transportation services, long-term care facilities, correctional facilities and dental offices.

Facilities that provide services insured by Manitoba Health and Seniors Care in outpatient diagnostic imaging facilities, labs or surgical units are also included, as are specialty physician clinics, primary care clinics and elderly day programs.

Sherry Plett, a registered nurse in the Southern Health region, celebrates after receiving her first COVID-19 dose at a vaccination clinic at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg on Dec. 16, 2020. Health-care workers were prioritized as part of Stage 1 of the province’s vaccination plan. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Home-care workers who are employed by a regional health authority, a contracted service provider or a self- or family-managed care client are also eligible, as long as they work directly with patients.

Immunization teams, which the province said on Feb. 24 will finish second-dose appointments in personal care homes by the end of the week, began visiting long-stay hospitals and supportive housing facilities in the first week of February. Next up will be correctional facilities, homeless shelters and transitional housing facilities.

What about people working on the front lines in other jobs?

Manitoba is looking at which “essential workers” should be prioritized in the vaccine queue, but it’ll take a month or two to decide.

They’re consulting with various groups and looking at the research on risk factors plus the epidemiology of the virus. So it could be April before this group is defined and vaccinations begin.

Margaret Watson, 94, a resident at Oakview Place long-term care residence, smiles after getting her COVID-19 vaccine at the Winnipeg care home on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Watson was the first member of the public to receive the vaccine in Winnipeg. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

In other provinces, essential workers included teachers, grocery store workers and first responders. 

What about those with health issues?

On March 3, Reimer said that Manitobans age 50 to 64 with a higher risk of getting seriously ill if they get COVID-19 will likely be prioritized to receive the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine when it arrives in the coming weeks.

For example, she said, epidemiological data shows people on dialysis for kidney failure and those with cirrhosis of the liver have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and they could be prioritized.

Reimer has said that the province is open to the possibility of prioritizing people with certain health conditions once vaccinations begin to open up to younger age brackets.

What about First Nations?

All First Nations people 67 or older are now eligible for the vaccine.

On March 5, health officials announced that vaccination teams will be heading to all First Nation communities in Manitoba starting mid-March. Entire communities will be immunized at once.

First Nations communities were among Manitoba’s earliest priority groups, with each community receiving a portion of the Moderna vaccine. Those shots were given to people over 70 in non-remote communities and over 60 in isolated communities, along with essential health-care workers.

First Nations people are deemed high risk by the province. Under the province’s age-based vaccine rollout plan, the age of eligibility for First Nations will be set at 20 years younger than the general population. This reflects the disproportionately severe outcomes suffered by First Nations people who catch COVID-19.

The first vaccine doses began arriving in First Nations communities Jan. 7. In the most recent timeline released on March 5, the province said it planned to have First Nations people over 60 vaccinated by March 15, regardless of how many doses there are.

The eligibility dates for the remaining age groups among First Nations people living off-reserve are as follows:

50-59

  • Low supply: March 10-March 25
  • High supply: March 10-March 25

40-49

  • Low supply: April 1-April 15
  • High supply: April 1-April 15

30-39

  • Low supply: April 15-April 30
  • High supply: April 5-April 20

18-29

  • Low supply: May 3-May 17
  • High supply: April 8-April 22

Where will I go?

This will change over time. Right now, the province has three vaccination supersites in Winnipeg, Brandon and Thompson.

A second Thompson supersite, Vaxport will serve remote northern First Nations and other northern communities. Beginning the week of March 1, the province announced northern communities would start using Vaxport to access immunizations.  

Residents will be transported either by air or bus to the site and back again the same day, the province said. 

The province also plans to open two new supersites in Selkirk and the Morden-Winkler area. The site at the former Selkirk and District General Hospital on Easton Drive is expected to open on March 8 and will serve as a hub for the Interlake-Eastern health region. People were able to start booking appointments as of Monday, March 1, with the first vaccinations set to happen on March 8.

The other new supersite will be at the Access Event Centre in Morden, set to open the week of March 12, and will serve the Southern Health region. 

A Vancouver grocery store worker behind a plexiglass divider wears a protective face mask in an April 29, 2020, photo. Manitoba has yet to decide which essential workers should be prioritized for vaccination, but that list has included teachers, grocery store workers and first responders in other provinces. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Once those sites open, the province will have supersites in all five health regions. These will also serve as distribution centres for mobile immunization teams and pop-up clinics in the regions.

Eventually, the province plans to open 13 supersites. 

And eventually, doctors and pharmacists will begin helping with vaccination efforts. That will dramatically increase accessibility for many Manitobans. On Feb. 26, Health Canada approved the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, which doesn’t require the same degree of cold storage as the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, making it suitable for distributed delivery thorough clinics and pharmacies. 

How was this rollout decided?

A federal committee put out its recommendations for who should be prioritized based on risk in December. The province took those recommendations and then decided what made sense for Manitoba.