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Health officials offered few details Monday about the province’s efforts to staff its COVID-19 vaccine clinics as the government looks to immunize just four per cent of the population by the end of February.

Manitoba chief medical officer Dr. Brent Roussin couldn’t say how many more people need to be hired to get the massive program, which is scheduled to include three "super site" vaccine clinics by February, up to speed.

According to the provincial government, at least 7,700 doses need to be given to people this week in Winnipeg at the RBC Convention Centre to meet its targets, and a new immunization clinic will open at the Keystone Centre in Brandon next Monday.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Manitoba's chief medical officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, couldn’t say how many more people need to be hired to get the province's vaccination program up to speed.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Manitoba's chief medical officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, couldn’t say how many more people need to be hired to get the province's vaccination program up to speed.

A third "super-site" clinic is planned to open in Thompson in February.

Meanwhile, numerous job postings for people to administer injections, clinic managers and leaders, support staff and schedulers remain open. So far, the province has remained tight-lipped about how many people are required to carry out the campaign and how many have been hired.

"I know that there is a number of our health-care workers who are stepping up for that and we’re quite grateful," Roussin told a media briefing Monday.

"There’s a process in place right now to try to get those positions filled. As far as specific numbers I don’t have that," he said, adding Dr. Joss Reimer, a member of Manitoba’s COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Task Force, would be available to answer questions Tuesday.

Reimer couldn't be reached for comment Monday.

“I know that there is a number of our health-care workers who are stepping up for that and we’re quite grateful.” — Dr. Brent Roussin on open positions at province's immunization clinic

Roussin said he did not know whether a candidate had been selected for the job of "provincial director of COVID-19 immunization," advertised last week.

A spokesperson for the government confirmed later Monday afternoon that the province is still trying to fill the role.

"It is important to be clear that while this is happening, the work that will become the responsibility of the provincial director is still being done," the spokesperson said in a statement to the Free Press.

"In the early phases of the immunization campaign, existing staff took on this role and others on an interim basis."

To date, the province says it has received 22,230 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 7,300 doses of the Moderna vaccine (5,300 of which are earmarked for First Nations priorities and the balance for residents of long-term care homes).

As of Monday afternoon, the province reported 10,353 doses had been administered. The balance will be used this week at appointments for first- and second-dose immunizations in Winnipeg.

“I’d encourage all Manitobans, when your eligibility comes up, to get that vaccine as soon as you’re eligible.” — Dr. Brent Roussin

"Right now the limitation, here and in every jurisdiction, is the quantity of vaccine," Roussin said. "As we get more and more quantity, we’ll be able to provide that and open up the eligibility criteria more."

Roussin was unable to provide specifics on vaccine uptake among eligible health-care workers but said anyone who meets the criteria for the vaccine should book an appointment.

Current eligibility criteria

Health-care workers whose work involves direct contact with patients and who meet at least one of the following criteria:

● Work in critical-care units (intensive-care units only, no age restrictions).

● Work in long-term care facilities, born on or before Dec. 31, 1975.

● Work in acute-care facilities, born on or before Dec. 31, 1975.

Health-care workers whose work involves direct contact with patients and who meet at least one of the following criteria:

● Work in critical-care units (intensive-care units only, no age restrictions).

● Work in long-term care facilities, born on or before Dec. 31, 1975.

● Work in acute-care facilities, born on or before Dec. 31, 1975.

● Assigned to a COVID-19 immunization clinic or designated COVID-19 testing site (no age restrictions and may include some individuals who do not have direct contact with patients, based on their role).

● Work in a laboratory handling COVID-19 specimens (no age restrictions and may include some individuals who do not have direct contact with patients, based on their role).

● Work on a designated COVID-19 hospital ward (no age restrictions).

● Work in provincial or federal correctional facilities (no age restrictions).

● Emergency response services and specialty-patient transportation workers registered with their applicable college or association in Manitoba, born on or before December 31, 1975.

● Home-care workers born on or before Dec. 31, 1965 who are employed by a regional health authority, employed by a RHA-contracted service providers or employed by a self-managed and family managed care-program client.

Source: Manitoba Government

"If we’re going to get out of this pandemic, we need the majority of Manitobans to get this vaccine," he said.

"I’d encourage all Manitobans, when your eligibility comes up, to get that vaccine as soon as you’re eligible," he said. "That’s when we’re going to start getting that herd immunity effect and hopefully in the fall of this year, we’re going to be able to see life at least more back to normal than it certainly is right now."

An additional shipment of 9,360 Pfizer doses is expected this week with a third of the delivery heading to Brandon to launch the immunization clinic.

On Monday, Manitoba NDP and Opposition Leader Wab Kinew called on the government to double down in its efforts to vaccinate the population.

"I think most people in the province would want to see the government giving all of their attention, giving this the due consideration as a No. 1 priority in the province right now," Kinew said.

"Unfortunately we’re still lagging behind other jurisdictions, so we would like to get that fixed and hopefully every Manitoban who wants to get a vaccine can get one this year."

Meanwhile, 17 of the 63 First Nation communities in Manitoba have received an initial shipment of the Moderna vaccine, the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba confirmed. All available doses are being shipped out this week.

Over the weekend, vaccines arrived in Nelson House, York Factory, Broken Head, Sagkeeng, Little Black River, Bunibonibee, God’s Lake Narrows, Manto Sipi, Roseau River, Sioux Valley, Canupawakpa and Hollow Water.

danielle.dasilva@freepress.mb.ca

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva
Reporter

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.

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