Manitoba has stopped booking new appointments at three of its five big clinics after demand for COVID-19 vaccinations exceeded the number of shots shipped outside Winnipeg.

Winnipeg Free Press

Delivering Crucial Information.
Right Here.

Support this work for just $3.92/week

Manitoba has stopped booking new appointments at three of its five big clinics after demand for COVID-19 vaccinations exceeded the number of shots shipped outside Winnipeg.

Johanu Botha, operations lead for the provincial vaccine task force, said each of the province’s mass vaccination clinics is provided doses on a per capita basis.

But as of Monday, all doses allocated to clinics in Thompson, Brandon and Selkirk had been spoken for, Botha said. The vaccination hotline and the online booking system stopped accepting appointments at those locations.

"There is demand across the system," Botha said Tuesday. "And with low supply overall, we allocate trays based on population size to be fair to all the regions."

"Brandon, Selkirk, and likely the Thompson site, they were able to just work through their allocation faster than (Winnipeg)," he said. "We don’t, at the moment, have more supply to allocate out to them."

Botha said the three clinics are still delivering immunizations and appointments will be available again late this week or early next week. Appointments continue to be offered in Winnipeg at the downtown convention centre.

Botha said shots would not be diverted from Winnipeg to other communities at this time.

"If we’re flush with supply and we see there is a greater demand… in one of those areas down the line, we can then start getting creative and taking a partial tray and ship it out so we can increase appointments," Botha said.

He said availability of appointments is also based on the province receiving confirmed vaccine delivery schedules from the federal government. As of Tuesday, Botha said Manitoba had yet to receive delivery schedules for Moderna beyond April 25, and for Pfizer-BioNTech beyond May 30.

The task force has to be mindful of booking appointments too far in advance in case people do not show up for their appointment, or if the size of deliveries is greater than expected. The latter scenario could result in younger Manitobans getting their shot before older folks, if appointments are scheduled too far out, Botha said.

For those reasons, he said appointments are not made more than four weeks in advance.

The newly opened clinic in Morden, the first in the Southern Health region, continues to book new appointments.

On Tuesday, a number of pharmacists and doctors were still accepting appointments for the AstraZeneca/Covishield vaccine.

Meanwhile, Botha said the age eligibility criteria for COVID-19 vaccination will stay at 65, and 45 for First Nations people, for some time to allow as many eligible individuals to book appointments as possible, before the criteria are lowered.

Botha said when the age criteria was lowered to 65 from 67 on Monday, a significant number of people became eligible at once.

"It’s one of the very rare times where, for a brief blip, we’re at a weird pressure point for the next couple of days," Botha said. "Overall our planning was good, because there’s enough appointments in the system, but because that cohort was big, it meant that in some sites… they filled up their appointments."

As of Tuesday, 152,900 doses had been given to Manitobans, including First Nations — which is reported independently from provincial figures — representing 78.9 per cent of the 193,760 doses the province has received to date.

Inventory at mass vaccination clinics in Manitoba is expected to reach its lowest level on Wednesday. The latest shipment of roughly 14,000 Pfizer doses, which arrived late last week, is to be used up by March 27.

Later this week, the province expects to receive a shipment of 42,120 Pfizer doses and 12,300 Moderna doses. By March 29, officials say the total number of doses administered at the mass vaccination clinics each day will hit 7,000.

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.

   Read full biography