Manitoba paramedics, home-care workers eligible for COVID-19 vaccine in January

More Manitobans will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting next month, the provincial government announced Wednesday, including paramedics, home-care workers, health-care workers at correctional facilities and roughly 15,000 care home residents.

Currently, some health-care workers who deal directly with patients in critical or acute care settings, care homes and COVID-19 testing and immunization clinics are eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

After more vaccine arrives in January, 15,000 care home residents will also be eligible for vaccination, the province said in a news release Wednesday.

“We know that the vaccine is still in relatively short supply here in Manitoba…. Supplies are expected, for the next few months, to remain limited,” said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical officer of health and the head of Manitoba’s COVID-19 immunization, during a news conference Wednesday.

“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.”

That process will begin when Manitoba receives vaccine that can be shipped to personal care homes, according to the province’s news release. Immunization will be based on “a public health evidence-based formula” that assesses the risk of each care home, based on the number of residents and the use of shared rooms — where COVID-19 is more likely to spread.

People who have been panelled and are awaiting placement in a personal care home would be eligible too, the release said.

Starting in the new year, eligibility will also expand to include:

  • Paramedics.
  • Health-care workers at correctional facilities.
  • Home-care workers.
  • People working in labs with COVID-19 specimens.
  • Health-care workers at child and family services or Community Living disABILITY Services group homes.
  • Health-care workers at emergency placement, family violence and homeless shelters.

Workers in critical care will still be prioritized and eligibility will continue to be set by age brackets, the province said.

“We will not be able to open the door for every group at the same time,” said Reimer.

Manitoba seniors will eventually be a priority group, starting with the oldest among them, the province said. But this may not begin for several months, based on the current vaccine shipment schedule for Manitoba. 

The Manitoba government expects to administer roughly 10,000 shots per week during the month of January, the release said, though that depends on how much vaccine the federal government can procure.

Health Canada approved the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday. It is a two-dose vaccine, but is easier to store and transport than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. (Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images)

The province expects to open its first vaccine “supersite” at the RBC Convention Centre in downtown Winnipeg on Jan. 4. The Keystone Centre in Brandon should become the second on Jan. 18 and a site near the Thompson, Man., airport should become the third supersite on Feb. 1, the release said.

A group was created to better navigate the COVID-19 situation on Manitoba First Nations and their members off-reserve — including doctors working in Manitoba Indigenous communities and officials from Indigenous Services Canada and the Canadian Armed Forces, the province said.

The table will meet every week, though “smaller forums” will be created to push priority issues and ensure there is constant dialogue, the province said.

As of Dec. 22, there were 2,075 total known active COVID-19 cases tied to Manitoba First Nations — 1,300 on reserve, 775 off reserve. A total of 83 First Nations people in Manitoba have died from the illness, according to the latest COVID-19 briefing issued by the Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Coordination Team.

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was approved by Health Canada Wednesday. The federal government promised northern, remote and Indigenous communities and their members would be first in line for that vaccine once it was approved.

The approval is “an exciting step,” said Reimer, but the logistics team has to figure out how many doses of the Moderna vaccine are slated to come to Manitoba.

To date, 1,687 Manitoba health-care workers have received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and there have been no reported adverse events post-immunization, said Reimer.

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