WINNIPEG -- The first of four vaccine town halls in Manitoba was held Monday night and health-care professionals answered questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

The town hall was for the Morden, Winkler and southern Manitoba areas.

The event featured local physicians: Dr. Don Klassen, Dr. Kevin Convery, Dr. Kathryn Martin, and Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead of the Vaccine Implementation Task Force.

The town hall was also hosted by John Klassen, a retired pastor who served southern Manitoba for 35 years.


One of the questions posed to the doctors was why people should be vaccinated if the survival rate for COVID-19 is high.

Reimer agreed that the survival rate is high but she said when looking at the total impact COVID-19 has had on the world, there are still millions of people who have died and many others have had long-lasting effects.

"We've seen so many of our loved ones, our community members, who have ended up with symptoms that last for months, who can't go back to sports, or their jobs, or their school," she said. "Even if you are unlikely to die, that still doesn't mean I want you to get sick."

She added even if someone doesn't die from COVID-19, there is a chance it could be spread to someone else who could have a fatal outcome from the virus.

"We don't want to see any more deaths. We don't want it to be you or anyone in your community. That is why we recommend you get vaccinated."


The doctors were also asked if they would recommend other forms of medication to fight COVID-19 such as the drug Ivermectin.

Ivermectin is an anti-parasite drug that has made headlines online as a possible cure for COVID-19.

READ MORE: 'Miracle' drug ivermectin unproven against COVID, scientists warn

Martin said there are studies happening to see if Ivermectin would be a possible cure, including in Canada.

She said so far, there has not been any robust data to support that Ivermectin could work.

"Realistically, I will be more than happy to see a study that tells me Ivermectin helps treat COVID and I would be more than happy to start prescribing it once I have that evidence," said Martin, noting that the studies at this point on Ivermectin have been small in size.

Dr. Martin stressed that doctors cannot prescribe ivermectin at this time for preventing or treating COVID-19, until clinical trials prove it has a benefit and it is authorized for use with COVID-19.  

Dr. Klassen added onto the point, saying at the moment there isn't enough evidence to back Ivermectin, but the same can't be said about the vaccines.

"We do know that studies for the vaccines, real world studies, are looking very good. So it's a matter of looking at the tools in our toolbox," said Don Klassen.


Another concern raised about the vaccine during the town hall is whether it is safe to use, considering it took around a year to produce and distribute.

Reimer said usually the timeline for a vaccine to be produced is over a few years, but when it came to the COVID-19 vaccine, there were changes to the procedures.

"One, the whole world started working on this together at the same time. So we used expertise from everywhere and our work on most other topics kind of ground to a halt and everybody focused in on COVID," said Reimer.

She added that pharmaceutical companies were guaranteed money to produce the vaccines even if they didn't work in trials, which she says helped in the production factor.

"So they were able to start producing the vaccine as they were testing it, knowing that at the end of their testing, if we found out their vaccine didn't work, that wasn't a risk for them financially."

Reimer said months were saved on creating the vaccine because production started so early.


All the doctors were asked if they were asked to attend the town hall to push the vaccine on Manitobans, with rumours saying they were paid $20,000 each to do the town hall.

Each of the doctors clarified they were doing the event on a volunteer-basis and were hoping to clarify any vaccine concerns for those who are hesitant.

Convery also mentioned it wouldn't be ethical for him to push a product that is unsafe for the public for financial gain.

"While we're not sanctioned to speak out against any medical treatment, there is a code of ethics and professionalism that we follow with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba and their mandate is patient safety. So if all of a sudden a member, such as myself, started promoting any kind of treatment for any condition that is unsafe for the public, potentially harmful, I would probably have received a call from them to discuss that," said Convery.

He added the important thing is to have courteous conversations with patients and go over all potential benefits and side effects that could come from any medical treatment.

To date, southern Manitoba's vaccine uptake is 52.2 per cent, with 94,491 first doses and 32,359 second doses being administered.

There will be three more town halls held by doctors throughout the province this week and Manitobans can find more information online.