The Manitoba government says it expects to vaccinate as many as 40,000 people against COVID-19 in January, as health officials reported another 15 virus-related deaths across the province Wednesday.
The news comes as 201 new COVID-19 cases were also identified Wednesday, bringing Manitoba’s total reported since March to 23,381.
At the province’s last scheduled media briefing on the virus before Christmas, Dr. Jazz Atwal, Manitoba’s acting deputy chief provincial public health officer, reiterated his calls on Manitobans not to gather over the holidays.
“This holiday season will be a make or break in our COVID outlook for 2021,” he said.
“The virus is harmful, it can harm your family, it can harm your friends, and it is harming your communities.
“So I say it again, and I’ll say it as much as I need to — stay home.”
The province’s latest list of COVID-19 victims include:
- a man in his 70s from the Interlake–Eastern health region;
- a man in his 80s from the Interlake–Eastern health region, linked to an outbreak at Kin Place in Oakbank;
- a woman in her 70s from the Northern health region;
- a man in his 70s from the Southern Health–Santé Sud health region;
- a woman in her 70s from the Southern Health – Santé Sud health region, linked to an outbreak at the Portage District General Hospital Medical Unit in Portage la Prairie;
- a man in his 80s from the Southern Health–Santé Sud health region, linked to an outbreak at Morris General Hospital in Morris;
- a man in his 40s from the Winnipeg health region;
- a man in his 40s from the Winnipeg health region, linked to an outbreak at an outbreak at Grace Hospital Unit 3 North;
- a woman in her 60s from the Winnipeg health region;
- a woman in her 80s from the Winnipeg health region;
- a man in his 80s from the Winnipeg health region, linked to an outbreak at the Poseidon Care Centre;
- a man in his 80s from the Winnipeg health region, linked to an outbreak at Park Manor Care Home;
- a woman in her 90s from the Winnipeg health region;
- a woman in her 90s from the Winnipeg health region, linked to an outbreak at the Poseidon Care Centre; and
- a woman in her 90s from the Winnipeg health region, linked to an outbreak at Oakview Place personal care home.
Manitoba’s death toll from COVID-19 broke 600 Wednesday — just eight days after breaking 500 — and now sits at 605.
Health officials had more details on Manitoba’s ongoing vaccination plans Wednesday, telling reporters they expect to receive enough doses in the new year to immunize as many as 10,000 Manitobans a week throughout January.
Only health-care workers whose work involves direct contact with patients in either critical, acute or long-term care settings have been eligible for the first shots.
But Dr. Joss Reimer, Manitoba’s medical lead on COVID-19 immunization, said the province is opening up eligibility requirements slightly for the next round of immunizations next week to include health-care workers working at immunization clinics and testing sites.
She said eligibility will be broadened further in January, as more vaccine arrives, and will eventually include health-care workers who have direct contact with clients, patients or COVID-19 specimens in the following settings:
- labs with COVID-19 specimens;
- child and family services or Community Living disABILITY Services group homes;
- paramedic and specialty medical transport teams;
- emergency placement, family violence and homeless shelters;
- correctional facilities; and
- home care.
But Reimer said vaccine supplies are expected to be limited for the next few months, and shots will not be available to all the new groups at the same time.
“Supply is still going to be a limiting factor at this stage,” she said, adding health officials will determine eligibility within the groups using age brackets.
“While eventually there will be enough vaccine for every Manitoban who wants to get it, we need to carefully consider right now how we manage these limited supplies until more are available.”
The update on provincial plans comes the same day Canada approved Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine, making it the second shot officially to roll out in the country after Pfizer’s vaccine was approved earlier this month.
Unlike Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, which has strict cold-chain requirements, Moderna’s shot can survive in regular freezers, meaning it’s prioritized for delivery to the territories, remote Indigenous communities and long-term care sites.
The province says as vaccine arrives in Manitoba that can be shipped, an estimated 15,000 personal care home residents at highest risk from the virus will also added to the list of those eligible to be immunized.
Reimer couldn’t yet say exactly how many doses of the Moderna vaccine Manitoba is expecting in its first deliveries, or when it might arrive here.
She said the province is meeting weekly with representatives from First Nations to determine how the vaccine will be distributed both on- and off-reserve going forward.
As larger supplies of vaccine become available, Reimer said all Manitoba seniors will be added to the priority group, again, with the oldest first in line for shots.
“This recognizes the increased risk of serious outcomes for our elderly,” she said, adding the round of vaccines for seniors may not start “for several months.”
The province says it expects to open its first “vaccine super site” at the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg Jan. 4 followed by one at the Keystone Centre in Brandon Jan. 18 and another near the Thompson airport to serve the north and those flying in from remote communities Feb. 1.
Reimer said 495 health-care workers were vaccinated Tuesday, bringing the total number of Manitobans who’ve gotten shots since last week to 1,687.
“This is the start of a months-long campaign,” she said.
“The vaccine will help us turn the corner against COVID-19, but it cannot replace the public health fundamentals that we all need to follow to slow the spread of the virus.
“While we’re excited to be talking about the vaccine today, that does not change the message of staying home.”
Daily case counts dropping
Daily case numbers have been trending downward in Manitoba in recent days as the province remains under strict public health restrictions.
But intensive care units are still running above their normal capacity and many elective surgeries continue to be cancelled.
Health officials reported 155 new cases Tuesday and 18 deaths.
It was the second consecutive day that new coronavirus cases were below 200 — a number that had not been seen for several weeks.
Wednesday’s latest cases include 118 cases in the Winnipeg Health region, 23 cases in the Southern Health region,14 cases in the Prairie Mountain Health region, 31 cases in the Northern Health region, and 15 cases in the Interlake-Eastern Health region.
Health officials said Wednesday an outbreak at Grace Hospital, Unit 3 South in Winnipeg has been declared over and didn’t report any new outbreaks.
The province says there are currently 4,427 active COVID-19 in Manitoba, with 259 in hospital with the virus and 37 in ICU.
The five-day test positivity rate was 10.4 per cent provincially and 10.2 per cent in Winnipeg Wednesday, according to provincial data.
–With files from the Canadian Press
–More to come.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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