WINNIPEG -- The Manitoba government wants Manitobans to get their flu shot this year 'now, more than ever' as they prepare to deal with both influenza and the COVID-19 pandemic at the same time.

Premier Brian Pallister and Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial public health officer, announced the campaign Thursday morning at the Manitoba Legislative Building, with Pallister receiving his flu shot from Roussin during the conference.

“As we prepare to deal with the flu season and COVID at the same time, it’s never been more important for Manitobans to get a flu shot,” the premier said.

This year’s flu campaign will be targeted to Manitoba’s most vulnerable and their caregivers, including specific outreach to the health-care sector and the public service, the province said.

Roussin said the province increased its influenza vaccine order by 20 per cent this year to meet anticipated demand.

“We think we’re going to meet the demand, and we’re looking for Manitobans to get that shot this year,” he said.

The province has shipped out over 150,000 doses of the vaccine, and it is expected to show up in offices soon.

Roussin said the province typically orders enough influenza vaccines for approximately 30 per cent to one-third of the Manitoba population.

“We’re not expecting a shortage, we’re going to watch that demand,” he said. “We do prioritize the high-risk groups, so that first priority group, long-term care facilities, First Nations, healthcare institutions, they get the priority doses, so that’s already out the door.”

Roussin said the vaccine will not be made mandatory for health care workers, but they’re being encouraged to do their part and get the vaccine.

Last year, 26.3 per cent of Manitobans received a flu shot. The shot is available for free for Manitobans ages six months and older.

The province also increased the eligibility for the high-dose flu vaccine. This vaccine is made for people 65 years of age and older, and the province has ordered 21,500 doses of this vaccine. Manitobans over the age of 65 and meet one of the criteria below are also eligible for the vaccine:

  • residents of supportive and assisted living housing;
  • those who are newly incarcerated or transferred from other federal or out of province correctional facilities;
  • those receiving home care services while on a waiting list for admission into a long-term care facility;
  • those living on a First Nation or in a remote or isolated community; and
  •  those living north of the 53rd parallel of latitude.

Previously, the high-dose vaccine was only offered to residents of long-term care facilities 65 years of age and older, clients in interim or transitional care beds, respite care clients, or unimmunized residents admitted to long-term care facilities during the flu season, according to the province.

The influenza campaign comes as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Winnipeg. Pallister reminded Manitobans about the importance of staying home while sick, physical distancing, limiting gatherings, and washing your hands.

“As we see a surge in COVID cases now, it is crucial that we remember to follow the fundamentals,” the premier said. “When we followed the fundamentals, we were winning against COVID. When we fail to follow the fundamentals, we begin to lose. We need to get back to winning.”