Manitoba won’t hold back 2nd dose of COVID-19 vaccine, Pallister says

Manitoba is following the example of other provinces like Ontario and changing its COVID-19 vaccination rollout plan to give a first dose to as many people as possible without holding a second dose in reserve.

Premier Brian Pallister announced the change in plan in a media briefing on Wednesday.

“This approach will allow us to get more vaccine into Manitobans to safeguard them,” he said.

The change marks a shift from the province’s initial plan, which was to hold back the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, both of which require two shots, in case supply chains break down.

As recently as Tuesday, acting deputy chief provincial public health officer Dr. Jazz Atwal was asked if Manitoba would change its rollout strategy, but at that time, Atwal said the province would was sticking to its original plan. 

When asked what prompted the change, Pallister said more information had come out about the effectiveness of the first dose in providing protection from the virus, as well as evidence that supply chains were more stable than they were initially expected to be.

“So the combination of those things means good news because we can get more vaccines to more people, more rapidly.”

‘Safety stock’ to be maintained

Manitoba won’t dole out every available dose. The province will still hold back a “safety stock” of a week to 10 days worth of doses, in the event of a failure in the supply chain, Pallister said. 

This would mean Manitobans can fulfil the next week’s vaccination appointments even if a weekly shipment failed to arrive as planned.

“We’re ready if the next shipment doesn’t arrive, we’re still protected,” Pallister said. “And we’re taking the chance that has to be taken, we think … that this system will hold itself up, as it has for the last few weeks.”

The province is expecting to provide more than 40,000 doses of the vaccine in the month of January — about 10,000 doses per week. 

That will include some combination of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Atwal is expected to provide more information on Manitoba’s shipment of the Moderna vaccine on Thursday, Pallister said.

On Tuesday, the head of Ontario’s vaccine task force, retired general Rick Hillier, asked Health Canada to look into approving Moderna’s vaccine as a single dose. 

On New Year’s Day, Pallister is set to tour a new vaccination centre at the RBC Convention Centre, which will open on Jan. 4.

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