WINNIPEG -- Manitoba’s COVID-19 vaccine campaign is now underway with the initial focus on health-care workers.

As for when the vaccine will be made available to the next priority groups, including those on northern First Nations, it’s still unclear.

The province has outlined four priority populations for receiving the vaccine first, which include:

  • Health-care workers most directly involved in the COVID-19 response;
  • Seniors in congregate living settings;
  • Older adults 80 years of age and older;
  • Adults at risk in remote or isolated Indigenous communities.

“We are looking at all of our communities. We’re looking at where risk is. We’re going to focus on where that risk is and prioritize groups based on risk,” said Dr. Jazz Atwal, acting deputy chief provincial public health officer. 

“There is no timetable at the present time.”

Atwal said the planning process is underway, and the province is working with its partners to distribute the vaccines.

As the province awaits Health Canada approval for the Moderna vaccine, Atwal was asked if it will be easier to ship that vaccine to more remote regions, given the fact that it can be stored at -20 Celsius rather than Pfizer’s -70 Celsius. 

“We knew from the get-go the Moderna vaccine would be, from a logistical side, a little bit easier to manage. It doesn’t need the ultra low freezers,” said Atwal. 

“That will be taken into account on how we provide that vaccine to Manitobans and where that vaccine would be offered.”

Atwal noted no final decisions have been made at this time.

In the last week, 810 new First Nations COVID-19 cases were identified. There are currently 1,192 active on-reserve cases and 981 active off-reserve cases. 

On Friday, the province announced another 900 health-care workers will be able to get the Pfizer vaccine as early as next week. The first 900 health-care workers are expected to be vaccinated by the end of the day.