A new pilot project will give 11 Manitoba medical clinics and pharmacies the ability to immunize patients against COVID-19 with the Moderna vaccine.
The sites chosen are in the Winnipeg and Prairie Mountain health regions and are receiving a total of 2,300 doses, a provincial spokesperson said on Sunday.
Previously, those sites were part of the province’s vaccine rollout and could apply to receive doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, which uses non-replicating viral vector technology.
Because that shot can be stored at lower temperatures than vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which both use mRNA technology, the people leading Manitoba’s vaccine strategy said it’s more suitable for delivery through clinics and pharmacies.
In its Friday vaccine bulletin, the province said the sites chosen are responsible for identifying and booking clients to get the extra shots.
Doctors Manitoba spokesperson Keir Johnson said six of the sites included are medical clinics, which he said were chosen by the province based on how close they are to various hot spot communities.
Those doctors’ offices all got their shipments on Friday and are expected to use them within a few days, Johnson said. Somewhere between 30 and 50 doctors across Manitoba are involved in the pilot.
“We’ve been calling on the province to do this for some time, to help extend the reach of the COVID-19 immunization rollout,” Johnson said in an email on Saturday.
He said many Manitobans would prefer to be vaccinated in their doctors’ offices, which can also help people get any concerns they have about vaccines addressed by a physician.
As of Sunday morning, all people 35 and older — and those in their 30s with certain health conditions — were eligible for vaccination at clinics and pharmacies. People 35 and up were eligible to get their shots at the province’s supersites and temporary clinics. Indigenous adults — including Inuit and Métis — are eligible at supersites, pop-up clinics or urban Indigenous clinics
Johnson said mRNA vaccines — including the ones from both Pfizer and Moderna — have already been used in doctors’ offices in other regions.
In a report submitted to the province dated April 21, Doctors Manitoba outlined a system it said would allow safe use of mRNA vaccines in medical clinics.
That included mandatory training on how to handle, store and use the vaccines and an ordering window that would help align the time the shots are removed from their freezers with when they’re scheduled to be used.
Co-ordinated delivery would also help make sure vaccine doses are used within five days of being thawed and within hours of being punctured, it said.
That report also included the use of special trays that help store and transport smaller supplies of the mRNA vaccines, which have stringent storage requirements and need to be kept at ultra-low temperatures.