Premier Brian Pallister toured the province’s fifth mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic Friday in Morden as more Manitobans became eligible to get a shot.

Winnipeg Free Press

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Premier Brian Pallister toured the province’s fifth mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic Friday in Morden as more Manitobans became eligible to get a shot.

"It’s wonderful to see this project going forward," Pallister said outside the Access Event Centre, which has been transformed into a health-care facility ahead of Monday's opening. "We’re going to start making a lot of people very, very happy, from what I understand, not just from Morden-Winkler area, but all over the province people will be signing up to come here.

"And signing up for hope that we can get to the end of this COVID pandemic safely with our people healthy and active."

The eligibility age for members of the general public dropped to 69 and older, and to 49 and older for First Nations members Friday. 

The province intends to open eight more "supersite" clinics over the next three months, said Health Minister Heather Stefanson, who visited the clinic with the premier and area MLA Cameron Friesen. 

"Stay tuned on the rest. We want to encourage people to get vaccinated obviously, so we’ll ensure that we’ve got the appropriate space," she said.

Provincial officials haven't said when or where the other large-scale clinics will open. The clinics operating currently are in Winnipeg, Brandon, Selkirk and Thompson, and at pop-up clinics in some rural communities.

The Morden facility, located about 120 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg, opens Monday at 12:30 p.m. It will have a daily maximum capacity of 1,000 doses. 

When the clinic opens, it will push the province’s total daily immunization capacity to 19,973 doses, just below the stated goal of 20,000 by April 1, if enough vaccine supply is available.

Health officials said the province will begin a new pilot program at the Morden clinic and at the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg to increase the number of doses immunizers can do per hour from eight, and to reduce the time clients spend in the clinic.

Some staff will be dedicated to filling syringes and others to updating records while the immunizers will exclusively deliver shots.

Appointments can be booked by calling 1-844-626-8222 between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. or online by clicking here and selecting "Book your COVID-19 vaccine appointment online." Currently, appointments are being scheduled two to three weeks in the future.

Eligibility may open to people over 65 years old as early as next week, officials said earlier this week. 

Also Friday, chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin received his first dose of the AstraZeneca/Covishield vaccine at an event hosted by the northern First Nations organization Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak.

MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee also received the shot, which was delivered by Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead for the vaccine task force.

Speaking at a press conference, Roussin’s deputy, Dr. Jazz Atwal, said he has also been vaccinated and encouraged Manitobans to sign up for a shot when their number is called.

"We want to be leaders. We want people to see that the vaccine is safe, that not only are we preaching people getting vaccine, but we’re showing people that it’s safe to get that vaccine as well," Atwal said. "The more that we can do to educate the population on the need for vaccine — I think it’s imperative that leaders continue to do that, public figures continue to do that."

Manitoba's chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, receives the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead on provincial vaccine implementation task force. (John Woods / The Canadian Press)</p>

Manitoba's chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, receives the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead on provincial vaccine implementation task force. (John Woods / The Canadian Press)

Provincial data shows 136,453 doses had been injected in Manitoba, including to First Nations, as of Friday afternoon. The province has received 193,760 doses from the federal government, meaning 70.42 per cent have been used.

The province has scheduled 226,980 shots over the next 28 days. As of Friday, 7.8 per cent of Manitobans over 18 had received at least one shot.

A portion of the 20,500 Moderna doses that arrived March 12 have gone to First Nations partners, as the campaign to immunize all adults living on reserve, and in neighbouring northern communities, ramps up.

An official with the Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Team said 9,180 doses have been delivered to reserves and the balance will go out next week when the majority of clinics will begin operations. Another 26,500 doses from a Moderna delivery scheduled for March 30 will also go to the effort.

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces are planning for deployment to 23 communities in northern Manitoba to support the immunization rollout, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.

This past week, public health officials said approximately 70 congregate-living facilities — assisted-living homes, seniors facilities and group homes — were visited by immunization teams, offering doses to an estimated 3,600 people.

Another 100 buildings, with an estimated 5,000 beds, will be visited next week; a complete list of dates and location is available on the provincial government’s website.

The province said details about additional pop-up clinics in remote and rural communities will be released next week.

— with files from Dylan Robertson

danielle.dasilva@freepress.mb.ca

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva
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Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.

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