COVID-19 vaccine now available to general public in Manitoba
WINNIPEG -- Manitobans born on or before Dec. 31, 1926 are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination.
Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead of the Vaccine Implementation Task Force, said Wednesday she is very excited to announce the news.
The Vaccination Implementation Task Force is sticking with its plan to start with the oldest people first. First Nations people born on or before Dec. 31, 1946, are also now eligible to book appointments.
The number to call is 1-844-626-8222.
To book an appointment you will need your Manitoba Health card number.
A family member or caregiver will also be able to book on behalf of someone else and one support worker will be allowed to attend the appointment.
The province requests the support person be family or a designated support person.
Reimer said the province is aware that the phone line could be busy and therefore 2,000 lines have been opened up.
"There are more than 270 trained agents taking calls," Reimer.
She said the wait time is low right now, but if it does increase a call-back option is available for people.
"At the same time, we are asking Manitobans to have patience,” she said.
“If the wait time does go up and you're struggling to get through, please try again. We're certainly optimistic that that won't happen."
Reimer said when people first call they will hear an automated message, which will determine if they are eligible or not.
Once they are determined to be eligible, they will speak with one of the agents to book an appointment. Both first and second dose appointments will be booked at the same time.
The province has also asked that the consent form be printed and filled out beforehand.
Depending on vaccine supply, the province will incrementally decrease the age of eligibility for the general public to book vaccination appointments.
All personal care home residents are expected to get their second dose by the end of this week.
Vaccinations at congregate living facilities are also underway, according to Reimer.
She said with all these people receiving the vaccine. including the start of the general public, this will help greatly in lowering the spread of COVID-19.
The province is also piloting an online booking system for appointments.
The online process will feature a virtual waiting area if there are a lot of people booking online. People will be able to create their own account and Manitobans will be required to complete an eligibility questionnaire. They will also be able to select their appointment date and time, however, a second appointment will be determined automatically.
When the appointment has been booked each person will receive a confirmation email.
More information was also provided about the province expanding its capacity.
The supersite in Winnipeg will be able to handle more than 6,000 appointments a day by mid-March.
"That doesn't mean we will be providing 6,000 doses per day but that does mean we could if we have the supply available," Reimer said.
The Selkirk site location will be at the former Selkirk District General Hospital at 100 Easton Dr. It is expected to open in early March, and more details are to come on the Morden-Winkler site, which is scheduled to open in the middle of March.
Reimer also addressed some potential changes that are being reviewed right now in regards to the vaccine.
She said there have been calls for the province to provide only one dose of the vaccine instead of two. She said this is being reviewed throughout the country.
"The data is starting to come in and we've seen some studies from some other countries that show some reassuring numbers,” Reimer said. “As we've said all along, we will shift our approach, if the evidence shows us that that's the best direction to go."
She added that Pfizer is looking at how its vaccine is currently being stored and possibly storing it at less cold temperatures.
"(Pfizer has) applied for approval with the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, to be stored in regular freezer temperatures,” Reimer said.
“They have not yet applied in Canada to Health Canada to make that change. And so once more information is available, and approvals are in place, Manitoba can also change our approach."