Manitoba’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been adjusted almost daily, as the federal government buys more vaccines, experts clarify when doses are needed and the province updates its projections.
Here’s where things stood as of Wednesday.
1) How many doses do we have, and where have they gone?
Manitoba had received a combined 38,890 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines as of Wednesday, and had administered at least 32 per cent of them.
The province says it’s not currently collecting data on how First Nations have used their allocated Moderna doses. If all 5,300 doses have been administered, the percentage of doses Manitoba holds that have been administered would be closer to 46 per cent.
The Health Department did not specify Wednesday when asked how many doses in cold storage have been designated for a specific future use, such as the 2,000 personal care home residents set to get shots.
Both approved vaccines require a second dose for full immunization, and so far, 1,660 Manitobans have received both doses.
2) When are we expected to get more?
Manitoba says Ottawa has told it to expect 215,300 doses by March 31.
Beyond that, timelines could shift dramatically based on how many doses Ottawa purchases, and whether Health Canada approves another vaccine.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is overseeing the federal rollout, said last week the winter months involve “a limited and steady supply… before we see a significant ramp-up leading into April and the rest of the second quarter of the year.”
The Trudeau government expects to have enough doses on hand to immunize 20 million Canadians, more than half the population, by Canada Day.
3) What’s the holdup?
Manitoba has been among the slowest to use the doses it has received, and most provinces had an underwhelming start, in part, because vaccines arrived weeks before Ottawa had told them to prepare for it.
Some flexibility involving when the second dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines must be administered has allowed provinces such as Manitoba to get more people their first shot.
Manitoba is still planning to hold on to the doses it has scheduled for the coming five to 10 days, in case of a sudden break in the supply chain.
The province’s phone-in booking system originally had medical staff waiting hours to book an appointment, but the province says the wait is only about 10 to 15 minutes now.
Manitoba has been proactively training people to administer vaccines, and allowing professions such as veterinarians administer the vaccine.
The province says it hasn’t tapped pharmacists to help with administering doses because of manufacturer restrictions on the movement of vaccines. The government hopes to eventually contract out vaccination to pharmacists.
4) Premier Brian Pallister claims there isn’t enough supply; is he correct?
Sort of. Premiers have argued that the slow drip of vaccine deliveries imposes an onerous duty to figure out who should get access to a scarce supply of vaccines. They claim the average Canadian could just queue up for doses if provinces were given an abundant supply.
However, Canada has not yet invented any approved vaccine, and in fact lacks the capacity to manufacture the type of doses used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. That puts us behind countries such as the United States and India. Yet Canada has done a better job signing contracts than the European Union.
5) How many doses do we need to administer by end of year to vaccinate all adults?
It would require 2,137,106 doses of the currently approved vaccines to immunize all 1,068,553 Manitobans aged 18 or older.
As of last week, Manitoba could only account for enough doses to reach 74 per cent of Manitoba adults by Dec. 31 — but Ottawa expects to have more doses of the approved vaccines on hand, and probably at least one other candidate.
6) How do the two vaccines differ, and what do they cost?
Both vaccines contain genetic code that the human body uses to detect the prickly spike of the coronavirus, so that the immune system creates the antibodies to kill the virus before a person gets sick.
That code, called mRNA is encased in fats to keep its shape. Both the Moderna and Pfizer require extremely cold temperatures to keep this shape in place, as the mRNA can easily break down and have no effect.
The Pfizer vaccine is trickier, requiring temperatures of -70°C until it’s thawed, at which point it lasts just five days in a fridge. The first doses came from Belgium.
The Moderna vaccine, which comes from the U.S., can last in a typical freezer at -20°C, for six months, and once thawed, lasts a month.
We don’t know the cost Canada is paying for either, which is a negotiated price that includes the speed of delivery.
A Belgian assistant minister accidentally tweeted that her country has paid 12€ (about $18.50 Canadian) for each Pfizer dose and 18€ ($27.75) for Moderna shots. Canada could be paying more, as a country that is receiving doses faster and had almost no contribution to developing either shot.
7) Is Manitoba planning to vaccinate teens?
Dr. Joss Reimer, a member of Manitoba’s COVID-19 vaccine task force, said the province is only vaccinating people 18 years and older at this time, even though the vaccine is approved for people 16 and older.
“Right now, in order to get us the most accurate ongoing data based on that variation in product approval, we’ve decided to use the adult population (for immunization projections),” she said Wednesday, adding that this might change as the science evolves, and more vaccine doses become available.
COVID-19 reactions tend to be more deadly among the oldest Canadians, and children tend to have the mildest symptoms.
—With files from Danielle Da Silva
Michael Pereira is a data journalist and developer who spends his days pulling data from (sometimes unwilling) sources, extracting meaning for readers and producing graphics that tell a story.
Pandemic claims another life in northern BC – Prince George Citizen
The COVID-19 pandemic claimed another life in the Northern Health region, according to statistics released by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control on Friday.
The death brings the pandemic’s death toll in the region to 48. In a joint statement issued on Friday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix reported a total of nine new COVID-related deaths in the province. COVID-19 had claimed a total of 1,047 lives in B.C. as of Friday.
“We offer our condolences to everyone who has lost their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Henry and Dix said.
There were 49 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the Northern Health region on Friday. The number of active cases in the region went up to 497, from 486 on Thursday, according to the B.C. CDC.
There were 44 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the Northern Health region, including 13 in intensive care. Since the start of the pandemic, there has been 2,745 cases of COVID-19 in the region, of which 2,182 have recovered.
In their joint statement, Henry and Dix said there were a total of 509 new cases of COVID-19 in the province.
“There are 4,604 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. There are 349 individuals currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 68 of whom are in intensive care,” they said. “Since we last reported, we have had 101 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 260 new cases in the Fraser Health region, 13 in the Island Health region, 86 in the Interior Health region, 49 in the Northern Health region and no new cases of people who reside outside of Canada.”
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 60,117 cases in the province.
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“Currently, 7,132 people are under active public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases and a further 53,115 people who tested positive have recovered,” Henry and Dix said. “To date, 75,914 people have received a COVID-19 vaccine in B.C. We are disappointed to hear today there will be a short-term delay in the delivery of some of the Pfizer vaccines to British Columbia in the coming weeks as the company upgrades its production facility. We are working closely with the federal government to determine how this might impact our immunization rollout in the immediate term, and we will have more to share in the coming days.”
In pandemic politics, timing is everything – Winnipeg Free Press
Premier Brian Pallister said a disruption in the supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is a good example of why Manitoba has been slow and cautious in its COVID-19 immunization rollout.
Government was prepared for this kind of bump in the road, he said.
However, according to the province’s own figures, Manitoba was falling behind its own vaccine schedule long before the Pfizer vaccine slowdown was announced.
Pfizer-BioNTech confirmed Friday it plans to delay some vaccine shipments (including to Canada) in the coming weeks to retool its manufacturing plants. Company officials said they expect to catch up by the end of March.
There are no details on how it will affect shipments to the provinces. But there will be a temporary reduction in doses.
Given how far behind Manitoba is in its immunization program, that slowdown may not make much of a difference.
But it does give the Pallister government political cover; the slower the shipments over the next few weeks, the easier it will be to catch up.
“I think this backs up our strategy,” Pallister said Friday. “Our vaccination team has focused a little less on trying to get good, short-term stats by rushing everything out and a little more on better, long-term protections by holding something back.”
Not exactly. The provincial government expressed confidence in the supply chain two weeks ago, announcing there was no longer any need to hold back 50 per cent of doses for followup booster shots.
“I think this backs up our strategy. Our vaccination team has focused a little less on trying to get good, short-term stats by rushing everything out and a little more on better, long-term protections by holding something back.”
— Premier Brian Pallister
Officials argued, rightly, there was enough certainty in the supply chain to rely on future shipments for second doses. They said they would maintain enough supply to meet demand for the following week. Beyond that, there was no plan to build up large inventories.
The province has fallen behind since then. The Pfizer delay buys time to catch up, while claiming plans were always in place for this. That’s why, late Friday, there was an announcement of a pause in new vaccination appointments (even though Pfizer shipments are still coming; there are just going to be fewer of them).
Pallister’s comments make for great political rhetoric, but they collide with the facts.
Manitoba has administered 13,539 doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines since the immunization program began in December. The total number of vaccines received to date is 38,890. If all 5,300 doses sent to First Nations earlier this month have been used, it means only 48 per cent of doses have been injected so far. Manitoba was scheduled to receive 7,400 doses of Moderna this week. If those doses have arrived (the province refuses to confirm when it receives shipments), only 41 per cent of doses have been administered. The rest are sitting in freezers.
Nowhere in the Pallister government’s vaccine rollout plan did it say the province planned to stockpile that much inventory in case of a supply disruption.
Part of the reason for Manitoba’s slow rollout is the delay in getting vaccines to residents of personal-care homes. The province had enough inventory to start that program in early January, but didn’t begin until Monday. In a pandemic, every day matters.
The plan is to immunize an estimated 9,834 care-home residents over 28 days. The target for the first week was 1,157, but the number has fallen well short. As of Thursday, only 281 residents had received injections.
Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin would not provide any explanation for the low number Friday, other than to say there will be more updates next week.
To meet the federal government’s original shipment estimates for January and February (which will now change), Manitoba would have to administer almost 2,400 doses a day.
But just 1,130 people, including care-home residents, were vaccinated between Wednesday and Friday.
The province just can’t seem to get this program off the ground. But now there’s an excuse.
It remains unclear when the Pfizer doses will be delayed, or by how much. But politically, this could be a blessing in disguise for the Pallister government.
Tom has been covering Manitoba politics since the early 1990s and joined the Winnipeg Free Press news team in 2019.
Province claims residents seeing light at end of the COVID-19 tunnel – Nanaimo News NOW
The optimistic statement from the province comes as the vaccine rollout suffered a blow.
Pfizer ran into production trouble while upgrading their facility, which the province admitted will create a short-term delay in the delivery of some vaccines.
Earlier on Friday, health minister Adrian Dix said the shortage will have a significant effect in February and March when only half of the 50,000 doses expected will be delivered.
Dix said this may mean public health officials will revisit leaving 35 days between the first and second dose of the vaccine, instead of the 21 to 28 days recommended by the World Health Organization. The gap was extended in an effort to provide more of the first dose to more people.
There was good news in Dr. Henry’s statement, which confirmed 509 new COVID-19 cases with 4,604 considered active. This is a decrease of roughly two hundred in two days.
Hospitalizations dipped to 349 with the number of people in critical care at its lowest point since November.
Island Health saw 13 new cases, with 175 considered active. This is a drop of more than 20 cases in two days. Ten people are in hospital for their symptoms including two receiving critical care.
The central Vancouver Island area remains the most affected in the health authority, with roughly two thirds of all active cases.
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