First doses of COVID-19 vaccine arriving in Manitoba as early as next week: premier

WINNIPEG — A COVID-19 vaccine is coming to Manitoba.

Premier Brian Pallister announced the news on Wednesday, saying the Pfizer vaccine, which has been approved by Health Canada, will be arriving in the province as early as next week.

“I’ve got to be quite frank today, and say I’m quite excited about this announcement,” Pallister said.

The first round will see 900 people receive the vaccine and they will be given to frontline health-care workers first.

The vaccine requires people to receive two doses 21 days apart.

Pallister reminded Manitobans there will only be a limited number of COVID-19 vaccines available before the spring, and said people need to continue doing their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“The cavalry is not here yet, and we have to make sure we’re defending one another every day,” he said.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said the province is recruiting people to help support the vaccine campaign. He said a successful dry run was completed at a temporary site in Winnipeg.

The Pfizer vaccine is not the only vaccine Manitoba will eventually be receiving.

On Tuesday, Pallister said federal officials confirmed that the allocation of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is being upped in Manitoba due to its “disproportionately large at-risk Indigenous population.”

Roussin said Manitoba expects to receive 237,600 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines between now and March 31, 2021.

With these vaccines, more than 100,000 Manitobans, roughly seven per cent of the population, will be able to receive a vaccine.

“In our first few months, we’ll have to focus on our priority populations,” Roussin said.

The priority for vaccination in Manitoba currently are health-care workers most directly involved in COVID-19 response, senior citizens in long-term care homes and assisted living facilities, adults 80-years-old and older, and adults at risk in remote or isolated Indigenous communities.

The province plans to expand vaccination sites across the province as supply improves, Roussin said.

PREPARING FOR THE VACCINE

Roussin said there are a lot of plans in place to make sure the vaccine is successful in Manitoba.

“This is an enormous undertaking when you consider all the details, big and small, that must go into these types of plans. Storage, delivery, other logistical challenges,” said Roussin.

He added on top of recruiting people to “get needles into arms,” officials are gathering the supplies that will be needed.

“Things like freezers, dry ice, other resources we need to keep the vaccine stable and secure.”

The province so far has procured 60 freezers for storage and the province said by January it will have enough storage to safely contain 1.8 million doses of the vaccine.

Pallister reminded people that it will take time to get vaccines for everyone in the province.

“To all Manitobans that want to be vaccinated and are anxious about being able to be vaccinated, I want to share with you that we have been assured by the federal government that they will eventually provide sufficient doses for you too,” said Pallister,” While there is hope now and we all have that hope that comes with this announcement today and comes with a vaccine I want to remind all Manitobans that the vaccine is not here yet.”

He said it is important people continue to follow the fundamentals and follow the health orders that are in place.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said he is excited about the news that the vaccine is coming to Manitoba but shared a similar message as the premier that people still need to follow the health orders.

“We still have to keep a distance from others, we still have to wear our masks because again we really have to stay on guard,” said Kinew.

He said he also has questions for the province, such as when and how the vaccine will be made available to people in rural Manitoba.

He also thinks now is the time for advertising, especially for those who are anti-vaccine or are hesitant about the vaccine.

“Now is the time for advertising, now is the time to get the message out,” he said.

Kinew noted that when he is allowed to, he will be getting the vaccine, but he wants to see his wife and mom receive it first, as his wife is a health-care worker and his mom is a senior.

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont doesn’t want to see Manitobans take their foot off the gas now that a vaccine has been announced and that everyone should stick with the process.

“You can actually reduce cases, reduce transmission without the vaccine,” said Lamont.

He also feels the province should share all information that is available to ease the anxiety among many Manitobans.

The Southern Chief’s Organization (SCO) said they were excited about the news from the federal government that it has added another 15 per cent of the Moderna vaccine for Manitoba.

“We commend a political leader who listens to the First Peoples of Canada and we have to give credit when it is due,” said Grand Chief Jerry Daniels in a news release.

Despite the good news, the SCO said they are still waiting for more information regarding the Pfizer vaccine and how it will impact First Nations.

“The premier spoke today about a Vaccine Implementation Task Force yet it is unclear if there is any First Nation representation on this crucial task force,” the SCO said in a release.

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