Manitoba still finalizing COVID-19 vaccine rollout plans for province’s homeless population

WINNIPEG — As Manitoba continues to expand the eligibility criteria for the COVID-19 vaccine, those who work with people who are homeless are awaiting final details on how the vaccine will be delivered to people in the priority population.

Gordon Taylor, executive director of Salvation Army’s Centre of Hope, said he’s been involved in conference calls with other shelters and the province, to help offer ideas on vaccination rollout for homeless or unsheltered Winnipeggers.

“We’re certainly very interested in how soon that happens,” said Taylor. “The plan isn’t quite finalized yet, so we’re not sure of the details of exactly when and how it will be rolled out.”

In late January, the province revealed plans about priority populations for immunization. That plan put residents and staff of all congregate settings, including homeless shelters, in stage two of delivery. Based on estimates at the time, stage two was expected to start happening as early as April, depending on supply.

As of Tuesday, no final decisions had been announced.

“We’re currently working on a strategy for homeless/unsheltered people and conducted some extensive consults with agencies serving this population,” a provincial spokesperson wrote in an email. “At this point in time, we haven’t launched that immunization initiative.

“Manitoba’s eligibility for vaccinations and vaccine availability is ever-evolving, pending supplies. There will be a process in place to immunize someone without a medical card. That process is in progress, in addition to which vaccine will be used for homeless persons.”

On Friday, Health Canada authorized a COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, the first one-shot vaccine and the fourth vaccine approved in Canada.

The vaccine can be kept at room temperature for three hours once opened and up to 12 hours if unopened.

If a person who is homeless gets one of the two-shot vaccines, Taylor suggested shelters could help the province track who has received their first or second dose, if needed.

If people who are homeless are already eligible to receive the vaccine, they don’t have to wait for the province to release the plan. Appointments can be made at one of four mass immunization clinics now open in Winnipeg, Brandon, Thompson, or Selkirk. Currently, anyone 80 or older and First Nation people 60 are eligible.

John Deschenes, 70, has been staying at the Centre of Hope for the past three months. He hopes to get the vaccine as soon as he becomes eligible.

“I’m in the target group where it affects people and I am looking forward to getting it. The sooner I can get (the) vaccine, the better,” said Deschenes, who’s been closely following the rollout. “I’m patiently waiting until it gets down another 10 years.”

Taylor hopes the plan the province is developing will help public health officials reach more people staying in shelters.

“It’s best if it can be delivered in locations that people are already comfortable going to; they’re more likely to respond to places that they feel safe, they feel comfortable,” said Taylor, noting the centre hosts flu vaccine clinics every fall.

View original article here Source