Protecting Manitobans top priority as province prepares for COVID-19 vaccines

The Manitoba government has made significant progress to ensure the province is ready to launch a co-ordinated and effective vaccination campaign to protect its most at-risk citizens from COVID-19, Premier Brian Pallister announced today, noting these efforts will be further enhanced by the expansion of rapid testing initiatives including one specifically for teachers.

“Quite simply, we want Manitobans to know that when the COVID-19 vaccine arrives, we will be ready,” said Pallister. “Our team of hundreds of dedicated Manitobans has been planning and preparing for months, for a vaccination campaign that will be unlike anything else this province has ever seen. We are assembling the necessary people, equipment and other resources to we can rapidly stand up a large-scale, ‘super site’ vaccine campaign, as soon as the vaccine is delivered.”

The premier noted that Manitoba has also procured all of the necessary supplies to administer safely and effectively two doses of the vaccine to every Manitoban, including a sufficient supply of personal protective equipment for staff administering vaccinations, as well as needles and syringes.

Several of the COVID-19 vaccines have specialized storage and other requirements, meaning it is more efficient to keep supplies and administer the vaccine on a scale basis in a smaller number of locations, especially in the early stages of the vaccination campaign.

The first freezer able to store safely one of the COVID-19 vaccines at extremely low temperatures has been delivered and installed, with another four on the way. Together, they can hold about one million doses of vaccine, the premier noted, adding the province has also purchased 20 portable ultra-cold freezers.

As the vaccine supply from the federal government expands over the coming months, it will become more widely available in a larger number of sites, ideally similar to a conventional vaccination campaign, such as the annual flu shot, once logistics make this feasible. Manitoba continues to call on the federal government to develop a co-ordinated strategy for the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Over time, the vaccine will be available to every Manitobans who wants it and this will help to protect all of us against COVID-19. In the meantime, we must continue to follow the public health advice of our public health experts, focus on the fundamentals and stay home,” said Pallister. “Together, we will save lives.”

The premier noted the province will launch a new, dedicated COVID-19 rapid testing service pilot for teachers in Winnipeg in January to coincide with the safe return to school. These efforts are part of a broader expansion of rapid testing throughout the province to help better protect Manitobans, ensure the health and wellness of school communities, and support the province’s overall pandemic response.

More details of this program, as well as plans to expand it outside of Winnipeg, will be announced in the near future.

The premier noted the Manitoba government has placed a new, $40-million order for Songbird Hyris tests, which will help deliver 45,000 tests a month.

The province is also deploying another 20 Abbott ID NOW tests to communities across the province, in addition to the 13 testing units previously announced. They will soon be in use and have been shipped to the following locations:

• Southern Health–Santé Sud – Steinbach (two units), Boundary Trails (two), Portage la Prairie (two) and Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes (one);
• Interlake–Eastern Regional Health Authority – Selkirk (two), Stonewall (one), Pine Falls (one), Gimli (one) and Ashern (one);
• Prairie Mountain Health – Dauphin (two), Neepawa (one), Virden (one), Killarney (one) and Russell (one); and
• Northern Regional Health Authority – Thompson/The Pas (one).
The rapid allocation of the Abbot ID NOW tests will offer health-care providers a valuable early screening tool to identify possible outbreaks as quickly as possible, the premier said.

The Manitoba government is taking strong action to protect Manitobans and ensure timely access to care. For more information on COVID-19 in Manitoba, visit www.manitoba.ca/COVID19.

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine campaign in Manitoba, visit: www.manitoba.ca/covid19/vaccine.