Manitobans look for answers regarding province’s vaccine plan

WINNIPEG — Manitoba’s vaccine plan was the topic of discussion Tuesday night in a telephone town hall hosted by the province.

Manitobans were given the chance to ask questions to Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer; Dr. Joss Reimer, the head of Manitoba’s vaccine task force; and Heather Stefanson, Manitoba’s health minister.

One question brought up several times during the call had to do with the new variants of COVID-19 that have been popping up around the world, including Canada.

Callers voiced concerns about whether the vaccine the province has right now will be effective against these new variants.

“For the UK variant, it does look like both of the vaccines are effective against that variant,” said Reimer, adding that some questions still surround what is known as the South Africa variant.

“Some of the vaccines seem to be effective, some of them less so,” she said.

Reimer also said some of the technology that Pfizer and Moderna use allows them to alter the vaccines. She said Moderna is already working on altering its vaccine to make it effective against the South Africa variant.

Roussin also touched on how the province plans on keeping the variants out of Manitoba.

“Just like when we were first dealing with COVID, the best approach is to keep these variants out of Manitoba and the best way to do that is to ensure anyone entering Manitoba from outside is going to self-isolate for 14 days,” said Roussin.

He said it is also important that people continue to get tested even if they have minor symptoms.

VACCINE PRIORITY ORDER

People on the call were also looking for more information about when they would qualify to get the vaccine and why some people aren’t considered a high priority on the list, such as essential workers.

Reimer said workers such as grocery store clerks, who are at work everyday interacting with others, aren’t at as high of a risk of suffering severe outcomes as others on the list based on the evidence the province currently has.

“We want to use this life-saving intervention for the people whose lives are really at risk, but that doesn’t mean that we are not going to keep looking at the situation and evaluate as the science comes in, and we will certainly make changes as more information comes in and may include essential workers in the future,” she said.

People were also wondering where seniors might be able to get their shots in the future if they have mobility issues and have difficulty getting to a supersite.

Reimer said while she would love to set up a door-to-door campaign, that isn’t possible right now due to the sensitivity of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

“We also do plan to have pop-up sites in a variety of communities and we have our focused immunization teams that can go to different sites as well. But none of those will be able to go door-to-door until we have future vaccines and we can take a look at the feasibility in the future.”

Stefanson added the province has also discussed how doctors and pharmacists could be part of the rollout plan in the future to help those with mobility issues.

During the call, officials asked the roughly 20,000 people on the line how likely they would be to get the vaccine.

Over 90 per cent of callers said they would definitely or most likely get the shot when they are eligible to do so, while 10 per cent said they wouldn’t be getting the shot.

Reimer said she understands some people might not be able to get the vaccine due to allergies or other health conditions and those people should talk to their doctors.

“To others I would say, we have seen millions of doses go out across the globe and we have been so encouraged by how things are going so far. There really haven’t been any, what we call, ‘safety signals’ or signs that there is anything more concerning about this vaccine compared to others.”

She added, even if people have allergic reactions to the vaccine, the staff at vaccine sites are well-prepared to deal with those situations.

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