Facing pressure Monday to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations in the face of a third pandemic wave, Premier Brian Pallister deflected questions from the Opposition while his health minister couldn’t provide information about the province’s immunization rollout.
In the legislature, Pallister changed the subject when NDP Leader Wab Kinew pointedly asked, "What's the plan to expedite the vaccine rollout?"
Instead of answering the question, he expressed frustration at media reporting about the amount of money he personally stood to gain from the government's proposed education property tax rebate and the fact his wife's name was mentioned in a Free Press story.
Health Minister Heather Stefanson could not say when the province would be in a position to administer 10,000 doses of vaccine on a daily basis despite a growing stockpile and news the federal government would be supplying 77,340 units this week
"I think we will eventually," the health minister said, referring journalists to the vaccine implementation task force.
According to provincial data, the best-performing day so far was March 31, when 9,412 doses were administered across the province including at supersites and immunizations by First Nation partners, doctors and pharmacists.
The province has previously said it could administer 20,000 doses per day if there were sufficient supplies.
"We’re prepared now to roll out the 20,000 doses a day if we get the supply. We don’t have the indication that we’re getting that much in order to be able to do that now," Stefanson said Monday.
When asked about the premier's response to his grilling in the house Monday, Kinew questioned the government's priorities and said it is not acting with sufficient urgency when it comes to administering life-saving vaccines.
"If we proceed at the pace vaccines were administered over the past week, we're only going to get through half of the new doses the province is set to receive this coming week. We're going to accumulate more and more doses sitting in fridges and freezers,' he said.
The government should look to other jurisdictions for ideas on how to improve the vaccine process, the NDP leader suggested.
"Even just ensuring the pop-up clinics and (focused immunization) teams could operate at full capacity on Sunday would be one step forward," he said.
The province needs to step up its campaign, Liberal health critic Dr. Jon Gerrard said.
"We're not seeing that urgency with this government and we should be seeing that urgency," he said.
More than 20 per cent of people 18 and over have received at least one dose of a vaccine, Stefanson noted.
She was asked about introducing drive-thru immunization, as is being done in other jurisdictions, including Saskatchewan.
"If we can do more in our supersites, obviously, that would be more efficient than what they’re doing in Saskatchewan," she said.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.