Province preparing to ramp up vaccinations as more supplies arrive

The provincial government is taking one last warm-up lap and slowly doling out the COVID-19 shots it has on hand before gearing up to do as many as 7,000 doses daily by March 29.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/03/2021 (559 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The provincial government is taking one last warm-up lap and slowly doling out the COVID-19 shots it has on hand before gearing up to do as many as 7,000 doses daily by March 29.

As of Monday, the province of Manitoba had received 179,720 COVID-19 vaccine doses from the federal government and had administered just 118,438 jabs. Based on the province’s own figures, only 66 per cent of the province’s total vaccine inventory has been injected into the arms of eligible Manitobans.

“A dose doesn’t arrive in our warehouse and then sit around for longer than a week. It has to move through a very complex system,” said Johanu Botha, co-lead for the provincial COVID-19 vaccination task force.

The delay in getting the doses out of freezers and to Manitobans has caused confusion for observers, especially as the task force says it plans to provide 20,000 doses each day (most of which will be given at mass-vaccination clinics, pop-up clinics and through mobile immunization teams) by April 1, if it has the supply to do so.

“We have multiple pipes through which we pump vaccine, some pipes like supersites are larger than others, and when we get a shipment of vaccine we almost always use more than one pipe,” Botha said. “We don’t get enough vaccines to simply dump what we get into the supersites.

“We have to use these smaller pipes to better serve more at-risk, or more remote populations.”

Botha said doses destined for pop-up clinics or immunization teams may take a week to reach the recipient.

In an interview with the Free Press Monday, Botha said all of the vaccines that are in Manitoba today have already been allocated to pop-up clinics, doctors and pharmacies, congregate-living facilities, First Nations and to mass-immunization clinics throughout the province.

The province will get to full capacity of 20,000 doses a day if the province receives weekly shipments of vaccine in excess of 100,000 doses, he said.

“That daily maximum capacity is if we were flush with vaccine,” he said. “If we just get that one 20,000 (dose shipment) that’s a tiny amount for one day that we have to distribute.”

On Friday, Manitoba received 20,500 more doses of the Moderna vaccine; 13,500 of those doses will be diverted to First Nations partners as a concurrent immunization campaign targeting all adults living on 63 reserves ramps up.

“That daily maximum capacity is if we were flush with vaccine. If we just get that one 20,000 (dose shipment) that’s a tiny amount for one day that we have to distribute.” — Johanu Botha, co-lead for the provincial COVID-19 vaccination task force

Another 3,600 doses have been set aside to offer to seniors and other people living in congregate settings, such as assisted-living facilities and group homes, over the next five days.

And about 18,000 doses have already gone out to pharmacists and physicians to administer to their clients throughout the week.

Vaccines are also en route to rural and northern communities for pop-up clinics, which are expected to provide 1,500 immunizations this week, and roughly 16,667 Pfizer-BioNTech doses are scheduled to be completed at the province’s mass-vaccination clinics by the end of day Sunday (about 2,400 per day).

As of Monday, 26,745 such doses were in stock.

An official with the province’s vaccine task force, speaking on background, said the balance of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines currently in the province — about 7,500 — will all be given to people by March 23. A portion of those Pfizer vaccines will be used by immunization teams going into congregate-living facilities.

Instead of booking additional appointments at mass-vaccination clinics this week to move the product out of the system sooner, the province has opted to take a cautious approach in case the next shipment of vaccines does not arrive as scheduled, the official said.

Previously, the province has operated clinics with high daily volume for fewer days a week, though that is not the preferred approach.

“Technically we could do that, and we could go super-fast, but that’s not good customer service, either. Not everyone is able to come within a specific time. We have to keep the appointments rolling,” the official said.

It’s anticipated the next shipment of 14,000 Pfizer doses will be used up by March 27, two days after the province expects to receive 82,700 more doses from Ottawa. Between March 22 and 28, 29,000 appointments are scheduled at supersite clinics.

By March 29, the province said the large-volume clinics alone will be providing between 6,000 and 7,000 doses a day.

Between March 29 and April 12, based on the latest delivery schedule from the province, Manitoba expects to receive 115,800 doses. In the next 28 days, the province has already planned 183,347 immunizations.

“The only way we’re going to get 20,000 doses a day to stress-test the system — that daily maximum capacity — would be if we’re getting enough supply… and even early April, we’re not there,” Botha said.

“We’re doing that minimum of 6,000-7,000 and chugging along at that (daily) rate — not including the other pipes — that’s probably firing on pretty high cylinders until we get into the hundreds of thousands in mid-, (or) end of April,”

danielle.dasilva@freepress.mb.ca

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva
Reporter

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.

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