As few as 40 per cent of people working with some of the province's most vulnerable people — residents of personal care homes — are vaccinated against COVID-19.
Care home administrators and the organization that represents many such facilities in the province are trying to persuade Manitoba's vaccine task force to let the same nurses looking after residents give shots to fellow staff members.
Jan Legeros, executive director of the Long Term & Continuing Care Association of Manitoba, said the group is hearing from member facilities that between 40 to 45 per cent of care home staff have been vaccinated.
Staff don't have to volunteer that they have been vaccinated, but many have let the facilities they work at know, she said.
Care home staff was one of the first groups eligible for a shot, back in December.
Public health has helped encourage vaccinations by distributing information posters which care homes can post, while the province's vaccine task force has played host to a couple of virtual Q and A forums, Legeros said.
Some facilities are having draws with prizes for people who have been vaccinated and several are allowing staff to go get the shot during working hours.
"We're hoping all of this will increase our ability to make our staff confident for taking the vaccine," she said Wednesday.
"We are somewhat confident the symptoms will be milder with the vaccine, but for an older person with heart and lung problems,even minor symptoms can be devastating."
Other provinces have driven up their numbers by having staff vaccinated at the workplace, Legeros said.
"Ontario has seen a really high uptake of that — between 60 to 98 per cent. We're talking to Shared Health and the vaccine task force about that," she said.
At the Saul & Claribel Simkin Centre in Winnipeg, where roughly half of the staff have been vaccinated, chief executive officer Laurie Cerqueti said there's another way of driving up staff vaccination numbers.
"I would like the government to make mandatory vaccinations for health-care workers. Our family members have asked that, but that would take the will of government," she said.
The centre also would like to have the province supply extra vials of vaccine so it can not only vaccinate new residents, but also staff, Cerqueti said.
Brenda Hodgson, acting CEO of Convalescent Home of Winnipeg, said about 82 per cent of its staff have been vaccinated.
"We are strongly encouraging everyone to go get the shot, presuming there is no underlying medical condition which would prevent them from doing so," said Hodgson.
"There may be more uptake on the vaccine when staff are able to more freely obtain the shot at a pharmacy or doctor's office."
Last month, Ontario-based Revera Inc., which owns several personal care homes in Winnipeg, including Heritage Lodge, Charleswood Care Centre, Maples and Parkview Place, was reported as telling the Ontario government about 45 per cent of its 20,000 staff nationwide had been vaccinated.
The company is continuing to work with its union partners and public health to educate staff about the safety of vaccines and how well they protect health-care workers, care home residents and their own families, Revera spokesman Larry Roberts told the Free Press.
"We take vaccination of residents and workers very seriously. Nurses and doctors within our homes and residences have been working to share information and address questions about the vaccines," he said.
Revera does pay workers to visit offsite vaccination clinics, but it would make a difference to have the vaccines offered to their employees on site, Roberts said.
"The staff in our long-term care homes and retirement residences have been working long hours throughout the pandemic, caring for their residents, and we believe we need to make it as easy for them to access vaccines as possible."
There have been 124 vaccination clinics for personal care home residents in Winnipeg since January, with 4,955 residents fully vaccinated and 5,154 having their first dose, according to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
Currently there are outbreaks at Donwood Manor, Heritage Lodge, Lions PCH on Sherbrook Street, Meadowood Manor and Oakview Place, but no residents have active cases of COVID-19, and there are only six staff cases, the WRHA said.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.