A second large COVID-19 immunization clinic will open in Winnipeg in early May.

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A second large COVID-19 immunization clinic will open in Winnipeg in early May.

Johanu Botha, operations lead for the vaccine task force, said the clinic will be staged at the Winnipeg Soccer Federation Soccer North complex (770 Leila Ave.), in Garden City.

The clinic will have the capacity to deliver more than 4,000 doses a day and will likely open May 7, based on supply.

"This will be a massive tool in our tool-kit," Botha said. "It will be a really, really big pipe through which we can administer more and more vaccine."

Winnipeg’s first mass immunization clinic is at the downtown convention centre. Botha said the task force is committed to opening 13 mass clinics throughout the province. As of Friday, five such clinics were in operation in Winnipeg, Brandon, Thompson, Morden and Selkirk.

"Every single (health) region... will get at least one more super-site," Botha said. "I will be able to announce both the community and specific location very soon. As you can imagine, we want to have that announcement made (when) both our municipal partners and our regional health authority partners are ready and well aware."

On Friday, the province lowered the age eligibility criteria for vaccination to 60. First Nations people who are at least 40 years old are also eligible. Appointments can be booked online at protectmb.ca or by calling 1-844-626-8222.

Also Friday, the Manitoba government updated its COVID-19 vaccination dashboard to include additional data and context about its immunization campaign.

The dashboard, which is located at manitoba.ca/covid19/vaccine, now shows how many doses are left to be given by physicians and pharmacists, First Nations partners, in addition to doses that have been administered.

It indicates the number of doses to be used by the province, through super-site facilities, pop-up clinics and immunization teams visiting congregate-living centres, and how long it will take the province to exhaust its supply.

Recently, the provincial government’s vaccine rollout has been criticized as its inventory was much higher than the number of doses administered each day.

Botha said significant data-entry backlogs at super-site clinics resulted in an under-reporting of doses administered. He said the backlog has been cleared and 259,847 doses had been administered in Manitoba. As of Thursday, 63.45 per cent of the 409,470 doses Manitoba received had been given.

However, data-entry backlogs will persist for doses administered on First Nations, by immunization teams, at pop-up clinics and at pharmacies and medical clinics due to connectivity and availability of staff to input the information.

The province said doses administered by pharmacists should be reported without a backlog, while physicians have 48 hours to report the doses they administer on a daily basis. Data on First Nations immunizations is often updated weekly.

As of Friday, Botha said the province was responsible for administering 55,217 doses out of the 149,623 currently in Manitoba and said all will be used up by April 18, at the latest.

"The reason that it’s a week-and-a-half is that a significant proportion of that 55,000… are going through slower (distribution) pipes by design," Botha said. "If we wanted to race through 55,000 and just get doses in arms as quickly as possible, we could do that; the tradeoff would be that Manitobans in remote, rural and certainly vulnerable contexts, like congregate-living facilities, would not be prioritized."

"If the (epidemiology) changes, and says we need to balance away from the smaller pipes… and focus even more on getting doses in arms — any arms, maybe less-vulnerable arms faster — if that becomes the strategy, we could do so."

In a high vaccine-supply scenario, all adult Manitobans will still be able to get a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by May 21, assuming 70 per cent uptake, the province has projected.

On Friday, provincial officials said Ottawa has suggested more Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine than was expected could arrive in May.

Botha noted that as details about the size and frequency of federal vaccine shipments are finalized, it appears the timeline to give 70 per cent of adult Manitobans a single dose of vaccine could be extended into June, but would be completed by the end of the month.

Botha also said that the rate of administration for the 54,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will depend on the capacity and scheduling of individual pharmacies and clinics. He said the province has an agreement with the doctors and pharmacists who received doses to use their stock quickly.

"They’ve committed to us to do it as soon as possible, but it depends on their own individual sort of practice," he said.

Botha said that should the province reach a point where people who are the most vulnerable to COVID-19 have been immunized, then doses allocated to smaller distribution channels, such as immunization teams and pop-up clinics, could be moved through mass clinics at a faster pace.

"We can maximize capacity at super-sites where you run clinics at a maximum until inventory is depleted without spreading it over a week or so," he said. "That’s something we could do if we need to rush for whatever reason."

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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