Manitoba looking at enhancing COVID-19 vaccine access to people with certain health conditions

WINNIPEG — The head of the COVID-19 vaccination task force in Manitoba said the province is looking at ways to ensure people with some health conditions can receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

During a news conference on Monday, Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead of the Vaccine Implementation Task Force, said people with autoimmune conditions, those who are immunocompromised due to conditions or treatments they’re receiving, and those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, have been asked to wait to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Reimer said the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recently updated their wording on people with those conditions to allow for some enhanced consent.

“Manitoba has been working very hard to have that process ready to go,” Reimer said.

“Right now, when someone calls the call centre and mentions that they have one of those conditions, they are being asked to wait. However, we are close to having a process in place that would allow them to move through the booking process, and on to a more thorough consent, where we have an opportunity to talk to them about both the risks and the benefits for them. In general, as well as related to the condition, and before they make a decision to go for immunization.”

A spokesperson for the province said on Friday that some conditions require an enhanced consent process before vaccination but did not list what those conditions were.

“Expanded processes and screening procedures are being developed to ensure everyone who is eligible can safely be immunized,” the spokesperson said. “However, there may be situations or cases where further review is required.”

The national committee updated its guidelines for the COVID-19 vaccine last week, saying the vaccine may be offered to people with autoimmune conditions, as well as pregnant or breastfeeding individuals, “if a risk assessment deems that the benefits outweigh the potential risks for the individual.” For all categories, informed consent should include discussion about the insufficiency of evidence on the use of the COVID-19 vaccine in the groups.

The recommendation noted there is very limited data on COVID-19 vaccinations in people with autoimmune conditions, as they made up a small percentage of the participants in the trials. The vaccine trials did not use pregnant or breastfeeding individuals.

Reimer said additional information about vaccine access would be revealed on Wednesday. 

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