Manitoba's vaccine rollout hits pressure point, not all supersites taking new appointments
WINNIPEG -- Manitoba's COVID-19 vaccine eligibility may hold at 65 years and older and 45 years and older for First Nations people for a while.
Vaccine task force officials say the slowdown is because of supply scarcity.
"To give you an idea of how limited the supply is, it'll be done in five days if we don’t get a new shipment coming in," Johanu Botha, the co-lead for Manitoba’s Vaccination Implementation Task Force, told CTV News Tuesday.
According to the most recent vaccine bulletin from the province, right now new appointments are only being made at Winnipeg and Morden vaccination super sites.
Botha explained that trays of vaccine are allocated to supersites based on population, and appointments at Brandon, Selkirk, and Thompson were snapped up quickly as the age of eligibility dropped steadily over the last week.
He said the system is designed to deplete each vaccine shipment before the next one comes.
Botha says sometimes the system will run hot, where briefly some supersites won't have appointments.
"But it's going to be very rare, I think we are at a very short pressure point,” Botha said, “There will be more supply coming in. We are holding at this age for a while."
Botha says Manitoba has administered about 140,000 doses of the more than 190,000 it has received from the federal government.
Of the approximately 50,000 doses that remain, half are allocated to First Nations, physicians and pharmacists and the other half are for pop-up clinics, focused immunization teams and supersites.
Last week, 68-year-old John Bandor became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Manitoba.
"I thought, ‘good, it's my turn,’ so I did all the appropriate things. I tried the 1-800 number, tried registering online, had no luck,” said the Brandon resident.
The grandfather of three said he tried several times over the weekend to book an appointment at the supersite in Brandon before giving up.
"Basically, there are no appointments."
Even though no new appointments are being taken, a provincial spokesperson tells CTV News all existing appointments at supersites will be honoured.
Bandor understands how big of an undertaking the vaccine rollout is, and said it is hard to place blame, but still he's feeling frustrated with trying to book an appointment.
"Because they dropped the criteria and they haven’t looked after the previous groups, so it gives you false hope," he said.
“What's happened here is we're 50th in the world on getting vaccines to our people and that's not good,” said Manitoba’s Premier Brian Pallister on Tuesday. “The Prime Minister has acknowledged on calls I've had with him, he knows it's not good, to put it mildly.”
Pallister added that Manitoba is lining up additional domestic production research, manufacturing, and potential distribution of vaccines.
“We think that that's a really important part of this, so we don't have to wait, we don't have to have a discussion about who's getting which short-changed and who's getting more short-changed than the other guy,” Pallister said. “That type of discussion just shows our frustration from all across the province length, breadth, east, west, north, (and) south. We don't have enough vaccines because we didn't have a plan in place to get them here from reasonable access points within Canada."
NDP Opposition Leader Wab Kinew responded by saying slowdowns at some of the supersites is a concern.
“We know that there are vaccines in the province here that are unused, and so I think the government, rather than just complaining about supply issues, could look at ways to ensure that there are more vaccines getting out there to the public.”
Bandor says he will be checking every day to see if appointments have opened up again.
His hope is to get even a little bit closer to seeing his grandchildren, even though he still expects to be practicing physical distancing and wearing a mask.
Botha expects new appointments to open up again as soon as another shipment comes in, either later this week or early next week.
This week the province is expecting 42,120 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 12,300 doses of the Moderna vaccine.
Botha says nothing stops anyone from booking an appointment at a different supersite, so there is that option to travel to get the shot.
He added that the province does want to make vaccination as convenient as possible, so when more supply comes in, it will be announced that people can again book appointments at all supersites.