WINNIPEG -- Manitoba is set to receive its first batch of the COVID-19 vaccine this week and the province is making sure its first round of recipients are ready to receive it.

Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, said the vaccine will originally be given to health-care workers who work in high-risk situations, which totals approximately 900 people.

Roussin said it was "quite the balancing act" to try and determine the first group of eligible people for the vaccine.

"We knew the priority group was going to be larger than the 900 initial doses of the vaccine available," said Roussin, "We know that for the coming months, demand is going to be much higher than the supply."

The top doctor said they are expecting more vaccines starting as early as next week, which will help immunize even more health workers.

Since the slot bookings opened up, Roussin said two-thirds have already been filled up.


While the province has almost filled the first round of bookings for the vaccine, Roussin said some problems did arise, which lead to a "frustrating" process for many.

"The phone system over the weekend had been quite frustrating,” he said. “Many health-care professionals were required to call many times and wait for hours sometimes to finally get their appointment."

Roussin said the number that was shared with eligible health-care workers was leaked and therefore calls had to be screened to determine who was eligible for the shot.

"There was hundreds of thousands of calls made in relatively short periods of time,” he said. “Unfortunately, there were many people who were not honest with the initial screening approach. So many of the call centre attendants were dealing with screening out people who tried to screen in." He noted there were reports that some people were pretending to be health-care workers when they were going through the phone process.

Roussin added because of these problems, there were several delays for those who were actually eligible to sign up for the shot, saying on average people were on hold for around two hours.

"We certainly didn't want to keep our health-care workers on the line that long and cause that much frustration for them. We are certainly sorry that occurred."

Roussin understands that many people are looking to receive the vaccine in Manitoba.

"Right now, we are going to have limited supply and we need to make choices on how to best approach this."

Despite some of the setbacks, the province is still on track to fill its first 900 bookings.


Members of the media were given the chance to walk through the new vaccine centre on Monday, where the province will start with its first round of immunization.

Roussin was asked what the difference is between this clinic and a normal flu clinic.

"Right now early on, probably the biggest difference is that this is a new vaccine. We're going to have very scarce resources, so we're going to have a lot of screening up front to ensure you meet our eligibility criteria."

Manitoba is expected to get the first round of the vaccine on Wednesday and Roussin said when that happens, they hope to have the vaccine centre open as soon as possible.


As the province waits for the vaccine, Roussin is encouraging people to sign up to receive it when they are eligible to do so.

He noted he has been talking with faith-based leaders who are spreading the message about the importance of the vaccine.

"They are looking for ways right now to help out their communities, help out Manitobans, " said Roussin, " They have talked about being there for that mental support…I think there has been a tremendous amount of suggestions that was brought my way and we are going to continue to work with them."