WINNIPEG -- Manitoba's vaccine eligibility is being expanded, meaning more people in Northern Manitoba will have an opportunity to roll up their sleeves for the shot, along with another neighbourhood in Winnipeg.

On Monday, the province announced it was expanding vaccine eligibility to include all adults who live or work in the Northern Health Authority.

"There are no specific jobs in this expansion – it is intended to be fully inclusive of people who work regularly in the north," said Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead of the Vaccine Implementation Task Force.

"This recognizes the increased risk faced by many people in the north – which is caused by systemic barriers and made an even greater challenge by geography and the distance to access medical care."

The province said it is also expanding the community-based vaccine eligibility in Winnipeg. Anyone who lives in the Seven Oaks West neighbourhood who is over 18-years-old is eligible, as well as adults who work in the community in the following areas:

  • kindergarten to Grade 12 schools;
  • as a child-care provider;
  • in a food-processing facility;
  • in a grocery or convenience store;
  • at a gas station;
  • as a public health inspector or workplace safety and health officer; or
  • anywhere that serves food (e.g., restaurants or food banks).

Brian O'Leary, the superintendent of the Seven Oaks School Division, said nine out of the 25 division schools fall into this area but account for about half of all enrolment.

He said the division is sending out emails to parents as well as staff and information on vaccination eligibility is being sent home with students.

"We're doing everything we can to encourage people to get the first appointment they can and we'll cover their work absence," O'Leary said.

"I think parents listen to their kids and I think kids can be a force for good."

This is the fourth neighbourhood in Winnipeg to be prioritized for the vaccine eligibility. Last week, health officials expanded vaccine eligibility to people over the age of 18 who live in Downtown East, Inkster East and Point Douglas South.

Reimer said Seven Oaks West was added because of higher case counts in the second and now third waves. She said the area also has a higher proportion of Black, Indigenous people of colour.

"All of those together helped us identify Seven Oaks West as a high risk community that we wanted to immunize as quickly as we could," she said.

Reimer said she anticipates the province will be able to expand eligibility in further neighbourhoods – both inside and outside Winnipeg – this week.

 Those who are eligible can book a vaccine appointment online or by calling toll-free 1-844-626-8222.