First vaccines arrive Dec. 16, nearly 900 doses

Manitoba’s first COVID-19 immunization clinic is ready to launch Dec. 16 , to protect 900 health-care providers and the health-care system, Premier Brian Pallister announced Tuesday.

“This is a long-awaited day of hope for Manitoba, as for more than nine months, this unprecedented pandemic has taken a toll on all of us as individuals, on our communities and our health-care system,” said Pallister. “We know that tomorrow’s immunization clinic is a small but critical first step in helping to protect Manitobans most at risk from COVID-19. As more vaccine arrives in the province, we will be ready to deliver, building on this incredibly important first immunization clinic intended to protect our first priority group and save lives.”

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The immunization clinic will launch tomorrow morning at the University of Manitoba’s Rady Faculty of Health Sciences on Bannatyne campus adjacent to the Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg. This site was chosen because it has the capacity to safely store the Pfizer vaccine, which must be kept at ultra-low temperatures and could not be moved after it was delivered.

Dr. Michael Benarroch, president and vice-chancellor, University of Manitoba said, “Our faculty members, researchers and learners in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences have been conducting COVID research, and testing, treating and caring for COVID patients since the start of this pandemic. This is another way to contribute to the fight against COVID-19. Thank you to all who worked collaboratively with government partners to support the safe storage and delivery of the Pfizer vaccine.”

Nearly 900 appointments have been booked between Wednesday and Friday to immunize Manitoba’s first priority group of specific at-risk, health-care workers. Every immunization station has a laptop to support real-time data entry and the province’s surveillance efforts. This information will be added to the Public Health Information Management System, which is a secure, integrated electronic public health record. Each immunization appointment is expected to take about 45 minutes.

All of the individuals immunized at the first clinic will receive their second dose at a clinic to be established at the province’s first ‘super-site’ for vaccine storage, administration and logistics at the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg. An ultra-low temperature freezer was installed at the site on Monday and it is expected to become fully operational in January, assuming additional supplies of vaccine are delivered.

BRANDON VACCINE SITE

The premier noted this is the first step in the province’s commitment to establish fixed vaccination sites in Winnipeg, Brandon, Thompson, Steinbach, Gimli, Portage la Prairie and The Pas, which will begin to launch in the new year based on vaccine supplies.

Currently, the Pfizer vaccine arrives in 975 doses that must remain in the same location where it is delivered. Manitoba expects to receive other COVID-19 vaccines in the future that can be broken down into smaller amounts and be transported. When that is possible, the province will create mobile vaccination teams, which will use both ground and air transportation to reach more remote locations. I

n the final phase of Manitoba’s vaccination strategy, when vaccine is more widely available, Manitoba will gradually shift to a more conventional immunization program.

The premier also noted Manitoba has administered 383,442 doses of the influenza vaccine to date this year, about 27.5 per cent of the province’s population. This is about 2,200 more vaccinations than last year and the most seasonal flu immunizations ever delivered in the province’s history.

Pallister said, “The threat of COVID-19 has also reinforced how important immunization is for all of us, as a tool to prevent the spread of serious illness. While we wait for enough COVID-19 vaccine to arrive, we continue to encourage all eligible Manitobans to get their seasonal flu shot as an extra layer of protection this winter.”

There are still more than 100,000 doses of the seasonal flu vaccine available in the province. Manitobans who would like to receive the flu shot can find the nearest location at Flu Shot Finder at www.gov.mb.ca/health/flu/finder.html.

More information about the next shipment of COVID-19 vaccine will be shared in the coming days, as those details are confirmed with the province. To prepare for this historic immunization campaign, the province has secured more than 60 specialized freezers to meet the storage and distribution demands of the COVID-19 vaccines.

By January, the province will have the capacity to safely store more than 1.8 million doses of vaccine.  Security plans are in place to help protect the vaccines as they are delivered, as well as the people and infrastructure in place that are supporting the immunization campaign.

Manitoba is currently recruiting people to support the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, with a number of positions available now. To date, 100 people have been hired as immunizers and will become part of the first micro-credential offered at Red River College. For a current list of employment opportunities, visit www.gov.mb.ca/covid19/vaccine/jobs.html.

© Virden Empire-Advance