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Manitoba gets ducks in a row for ramped-up vaccination effort – Winnipeg Free Press



The race is on for the province to nearly double its capacity and deliver 20,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses a day next month.

In just four weeks, vaccine deliveries are expected to ramp up significantly, but on Friday, the province only had the capacity to dole out about 12,500 lifesaving shots.

The Manitoba government has set a goal to give out 20,000 jabs daily in order to keep up with the minimum 1.5 million doses it will receive from the federal government from April to June.

Considering recent changes that allow second doses to be delayed as many as four months, Johanu Botha, operational lead for the COVID-19 vaccine task force, said he is certain the province will make good on its promise and provide a single shot to all adult Manitobans as early as May 18.

The new timeline is contingent on the province receiving a steady and high supply of vaccines from the federal government, Botha said.

If the province gets a steady supply of vaccines from the federal government it can administer 20,000 doses a day, says Johanu Botha, operational lead for the COVID-19 vaccine task force. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

If the province gets a steady supply of vaccines from the federal government it can administer 20,000 doses a day, says Johanu Botha, operational lead for the COVID-19 vaccine task force. (Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“If that’s the case, and our system is up and running, as it will be, to administer 20,000 doses a day come the first of April, we will have all eligible Manitobans vaccinated,” Botha said. “We’re confident we can do this, if the supply arrives more consistently.”

The vaccine task force had earlier estimated all eligible Manitobans would get a shot by the end of August in the best-case scenario.

The expedited schedule follows a recommendation by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization that provinces delay second doses as long as the vaccine supply is scarce.

Attention now turns to the province’s ability to deliver.

Heavy hitters: mass vaccination clinics

Manitoba plans to use high-volume vaccination clinics — dubbed super-sites — to give roughly 14,000 shots a day beginning in April.

Right now, the province has three such clinics capable of administering 6,499 shots a day, including the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg, the Keystone Centre in Brandon, and two locations in Thompson: a clinic at the recreation centre, and one at “Vaxport,” the provincial air hangar. A fourth super-site clinic will open Monday at the former Selkirk and District General Hospital, with an estimated daily capacity of 1,000 shots.

A fifth clinic will open at the Access Event Centre in Morden. An opening date has yet to be announced and the province has yet to confirm how many doses the clinic will provide daily.

Where the balance of doses will be offered — as many as 6,000 daily — remained uncertain Friday.

Provincial plans have called for a total of 13 super-sites, including two more in Winnipeg, a third for the north in either Flin Flon or The Pas, and one additional site in Southern Health and Interlake-Eastern, to be open in April. So far, no additional clinics have been announced.

Recently, Botha said the search for suitable facilities for mass clinics has been challenged due to strict infrastructure requirements for infection prevention and control.

Gisella Greschner, 97, receives her COVID-19 vaccination at the convention centre in Winnipeg, one of three of the province's so-called supersites. (Kevin King / Pool files)


Gisella Greschner, 97, receives her COVID-19 vaccination at the convention centre in Winnipeg, one of three of the province’s so-called supersites. (Kevin King / Pool files)

“So what we’re looking at in terms of what will help us leap up to 20,000, it may be another super-site or two, but I think probably what will get us there at this point will be an array of pop-up sites,” Botha said. “We will continue on with building up to our around 13 super-sites, but that timeline… is impacted by the appropriate infection prevention and control measures.”

In the meantime, officials said the clinic at the convention centre will be expanded to towards meeting the April goal.

When it comes to staffing, the province says it has hired 1,647 immunizers — more than enough to deliver 14,000 doses a day at super-sites. Immunizers can also be assigned for post-immunization observation, as clinical leads or clinic managers, based on experience, the province said.

Earlier this week, 165 people were added to the provincial vaccine workforce, for a total of 2,224 staff. The province said it continues to recruit for clinic navigators outside Winnipeg and is in the process of hiring 50 students to begin working full-time as of April 1 to fill positions across Manitoba. Recruitment continues for immunizers in southern Manitoba.

Familiar and convenient: pharmacies and clinics

The province has recruited enough pharmacists and physicians to give up to 5,000 daily vaccine doses — a quarter of the planned capacity — through community clinics and pharmacies.

On average, individual clinics and pharmacies will give up to 20 doses a day throughout the spring.

However, physicians and pharmacists will only be able to hit the targeted 5,000 daily doses if enough fridge-stable vaccines are sent to Manitoba.

Currently, only the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines can be stored between 2 C and 8 C, with the former recommended for people under 65 years of age. The national advisory clinic has not provided recommendations on how the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should be used.

Barret Procyshyn, pharmacist and co-owner of Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy, said his pharmacy is ready to spring into action when the doses arrive.

The province has recruited pharmacists and physicians to provide up to 5,000 daily vaccine doses through community clinics and pharmacies. (Jessica Hill / The Associated Press files)


The province has recruited pharmacists and physicians to provide up to 5,000 daily vaccine doses through community clinics and pharmacies. (Jessica Hill / The Associated Press files)

It has designated space to offer COVID-19 vaccines, Procyshyn said, and has established an online waiting list where community members can sign up and provide information related to their eligibility.

As eligibility criteria are expanded, Procyshyn said his pharmacy will contact people on the list to offer them appointments. He said they will be able to do between 60 and 80 doses a day.

“It has been a lot of work, but this is a chance for pharmacists and our profession to step up and show that we’re front-line health-care providers,” Procyshyn said. “I think you’re going to see a lot of pharmacists, especially in rural areas, step up to the plate.

“That’s the only way people in these small towns are going to get their vaccines,” he said.

Meanwhile, Doctors Manitoba has prepared its own website to assist the public in connecting with physicians who give COVID-19 vaccines. The website,, will include a list of doctors providing the jabs as clinics open for appointments. Each clinic and pharmacy will book appointments directly for their clients.

Hard to reach: pop-up clinics and immunization teams

An estimated 1,000 doses will be given per day to people who live in congregate settings or in isolated communities, through focused immunization teams and pop-up clinics.

Vaccine booking changes

On Friday, Manitoba’s vaccine task force announced changes to the way vaccine appointments are booked as officials plan to speed up delivery of the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Here’s the latest:

• Manitobans older than 87, and First Nations members older than 67, are eligible to get vaccinated.

• Age eligibility will be expanded in descending order. All Manitobans age 80 and up will likely be eligible to book vaccine appointments next week. Up-to-date eligibility requirements are posted on the government’s website here.

On Friday, Manitoba’s vaccine task force announced changes to the way vaccine appointments are booked as officials plan to speed up delivery of the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Here’s the latest:

• Manitobans older than 87, and First Nations members older than 67, are eligible to get vaccinated.

• Age eligibility will be expanded in descending order. All Manitobans age 80 and up will likely be eligible to book vaccine appointments next week. Up-to-date eligibility requirements are posted on the government’s website here

• Only one appointment will be booked per person as of Friday. (Previously, Manitobans were required to schedule a second-dose appointment before they could receive their first shot).

• Spouses and members of the same household can book their appointments at the same time, as long as they all meet the age requirements. This means they can travel to their appointment together. Only those who are old enough to be eligible can get the vaccine at the same time as their spouse.

• Manitobans who are between 50 to 64 years old and have serious health conditions will be next in line to receive the vaccine, at their doctor’s office or pharmacy. It is not yet possible to book appointments with a doctor or pharmacy, but they will set up their own booking systems. More information will be released when it’s available.

• Currently, the only way to book a vaccine appointment is by calling 1-844-626-8222. Appointments are limited to those who meet the age requirements. A Manitoba health card number is required. A consent form is available online to be printed out and taken to the appointment. Copies of the form are available on site.

• Online booking doesn’t yet exist in Manitoba. The province plans to launch an online booking portal in April.

• Manitobans with vaccine appointments will be directed to their nearest vaccine clinic. Currently, Winnipeg, Brandon and Thompson each have one vaccine clinic. On March 8, a clinic will open in Selkirk. A clinic will open in Morden later this month.

• In response to concerns the vaccine super-site clinics have not been accessible enough for elderly Manitobans, members of the task force said Friday they were working to improve the situation and would place more chairs so people can sit and wait.

• In First Nations communities, vaccine clinics will start being set up later in March to offer the vaccine to everyone over 18.

• Plans are underway for the First Nations clinics. Information on where they will be located and how people can book appointments hasn’t yet been released. People living in or near First Nations will be able to receive the vaccine at their nearest super-site if they don’t want to wait for an immunization team to arrive in their community.

• The First Nations vaccine rollout is also following the province’s plan to deliver all first doses before continuing with the second vaccine dose.

The province says it has the capacity to offer 500 doses a day to people through focused immunization teams.

Currently, immunization teams are tasked with providing shots at assisted-living facilities and seniors homes, as well as at hospitals to immunize long-term patients. Nearly 3,000 residents and patients are scheduled for a vaccine at 70 locations throughout the province next week.

The same immunization teams will eventually go to provincial jails, family violence shelters, homeless shelters and transitional housing, group homes and addictions treatment facilities.

For rural and remote communities that cannot easily access a super-site clinic, the province plans to offer pop-up clinics. As of Friday, pop-up clinics could offer as many as 500 total daily doses.

However, no information has been provided about where pop-up clinics will be staged or when they would open. Churchill, Gillam, Lynn Lake, Leaf Rapids and Grand Rapids have been flagged for pop-up clinics.

Danielle Da Silva

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CANADA STOCKS – TSX falls 0.14% to 19,201.28



* The Toronto Stock Exchange’s TSX falls 0.14 percent to 19,201.28

* Leading the index were Stantec Inc <STN.TO​>, up 3.4%, Imperial Oil Ltd​, up 3.3%, and Corus Entertainment Inc​, higher by 2.9%.

* Lagging shares were Aphria Inc​​, down 14.2%, Village Farms International Inc​, down 9.9%, and Aurora Cannabis Inc​, lower by 9.4%.

* On the TSX 91 issues rose and 134 fell as a 0.7-to-1 ratio favored decliners. There were 24 new highs and no new lows, with total volume of 228.0 million shares.

* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Toronto-dominion Bank, Royal Bank Of Canada and Suncor Energy Inc.

* The TSX’s energy group fell 0.32 points, or 0.3%, while the financials sector climbed 2.46 points, or 0.7%.

* West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 0.52%, or $0.31, to $59.63 a barrel. Brent crude  rose 0.4%, or $0.25, to $63.2 [O/R]

* The TSX is up 10.1% for the year.

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Air Canada signs C$5.9 billion government aid package, agrees to buy Airbus, Boeing jets



By David Ljunggren and Allison Lampert

OTTAWA/MONTREAL (Reuters) -Air Canada, struggling with a collapse in traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reached a deal on Monday on a long-awaited aid package with the federal government that would allow it to access up to C$5.9 billion ($4.69 billion) in funds.

The agreement – the largest individual coronavirus-related loan that Ottawa has arranged with a company – was announced after the airline industry criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government for dawdling. The United States and France acted much more quickly to help major carriers.

Canada‘s largest carrier, which last year cut over half its workforce, or 20,000 jobs, and other airlines have been negotiating with the government for months on a coronavirus aid package.

In February, Air Canada reported a net loss for 2020 of C$4.65 billion, compared with a 2019 profit of C$1.48 billion.

As part of the deal, Air Canada agreed to ban share buybacks and dividends, cap annual compensation for senior executives at C$1 million a year and preserve jobs at the current level, which is 14,859.

It will also proceed with planned purchases of 33 Airbus SE 220 airliners and 40 Boeing Co 737 MAX airliners.

Chris Murray, managing director, equity research at ATB Capital Markets, said the deal took into account the “specific needs of Air Canada in the short and medium term without being overly onerous.”

He added: “It gives them some flexibility in drawing down additional liquidity as needed.”

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the government was still in negotiations with other airlines about possible aid.

Canada, the world’s second-largest nation by area, depends heavily on civil aviation to keep remote communities connected.

Opposition politicians fretted that further delays in announcing aid could result in permanent damage to the country.

Air Canada said it would resume services on nearly all of the routes it had suspended because of COVID-19.


The deal removes a potential political challenge for the Liberals, who insiders say are set to trigger an election later this year.

The government has agreed to buy C$500 million worth of shares in the airline, at C$23.1793 each, or a 14.2% discount to Monday’s close, a roughly 6% stake.

“Maintaining a competitive airline sector and good jobs is crucially important,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters, adding the equity stake would allow taxpayers to benefit when the airline’s fortunes recovered.

The Canadian government previously approved similar loans for four other companies worth up to C$1.billion, including up to C$375 million to low-cost airline Sunwing Vacations Inc. The government has paid out C$73.47 billion under its wage subsidy program and C$46.11 billion in loans to hard-hit small businesses.

Michael Rousseau, Air Canada‘s president and chief executive officer, said the liquidity “provides a significant layer of insurance for Air Canada.”

Jerry Dias, head of the Unifor private-sector union, described the announcement as “a good deal for everybody.”

Unifor represents more than 16,000 members working in the air transportation sector.

But the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents roughly 10,000 Air Canada flight attendants, said the package protected the jobs of current workers rather than the 7,500 members of its union who had been let go by the carrier.

($1=1.2567 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Dan Grebler and Peter Cooney)

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U.K. advises limiting AstraZeneca in under-30s amid clot worry



British authorities recommended Wednesday that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine not be given to adults under 30 where possible because of strengthening evidence that the shot may be linked to rare blood clots.

The recommendation came as regulators both in the United Kingdom and the European Union emphasized that the benefits of receiving the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for most people — even though the European Medicines Agency said it had found a “possible link” between the shot and the rare clots. British authorities recommended that people under 30 be offered alternatives to AstraZeneca. But the EMA advised no such age restrictions, leaving it up to its member-countries to decide whether to limit its use.

Several countries have already imposed limits on who can receive the vaccine, and any restrictions are closely watched since the vaccine, which is cheaper and easier to store than many others, is critical to global immunization campaigns and is a pillar of the UN-backed program known as COVAX that aims to get vaccines to some of the world’s poorest countries.

“This is a course correction, there’s no question about that,” Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said during a press briefing. “But it is, in a sense, in medicine quite normal for physicians to alter their preferences for how patients are treated over time.”

Van-Tam said the effect on Britain’s vaccination timetable — one of the speediest in the world — should be “zero or negligible,” assuming the National Health Service receives expected deliveries of other vaccines, including those produced by Pfizer and Moderna.

EU and U.K. regulators held simultaneous press conferences Wednesday afternoon to announce the results of investigations into reports of blood clots that sparked concern about the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The EU agency described the clots as “very rare” side effects. Dr Sabine Straus, chair of EMA’s Safety Committee, said the best data is coming from Germany where there is one report of the rare clots for every 100,000 doses given, although she noted far fewer reports in the U.K. Still, that’s less than the clot risk that healthy women face from birth control pills, noted another expert, Dr. Peter Arlett.

The agency said most of the cases reported have occurred in women under 60 within two weeks of vaccination — but based on the currently available evidence, it was not able to identify specific risk factors. Experts reviewed several dozen cases that came mainly from Europe and the U.K., where around 25 million people have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“The reported cases of unusual blood clotting following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine should be listed as possible side effects of the vaccine,” said Emer Cooke, the agency’s executive director. “The risk of mortality from COVID is much greater than the risk of mortality from these side effects.”

Arlett said there is no information suggesting an increased risk from the other major COVID-19 vaccines.

The EMA’s investigation focused on unusual types of blood clots that are occurring along with low blood platelets. One rare clot type appears in multiple blood vessels and the other in veins that drain blood from the brain.

While the benefits of the vaccine still outweigh the risks, that assessment is “more finely balanced” among younger people who are less likely to become seriously ill with COVID-19, the U.K’s Van-Tam said.

“We are not advising a stop to any vaccination for any individual in any age group,” said Wei Shen Lim, who chairs Britain’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization. “We are advising a preference for one vaccine over another vaccine for a particular age group, really out of the utmost caution rather than because we have any serious safety concerns.”

In March, more than a dozen countries, mostly in Europe, suspended their use of AstraZeneca over the blood clot issue. Most restarted — some with age restrictions — after the EMA said countries should continue using the potentially life-saving vaccine.

Britain, which relies heavily on AstraZeneca, however, continued to use it.

The suspensions were seen as particularly damaging for AstraZeneca because they came after repeated missteps in how the company reported data on the vaccine’s effectiveness and concerns over how well its shot worked in older people. That has led to frequently changing advice in some countries on who can take the vaccine, raising worries that AstraZeneca’s credibility could be permanently damaged, spurring more vaccine hesitancy and prolonging the pandemic.

Dr. Peter English, who formerly chaired the British Medical Association’s Public Health Medicine Committee, said the back-and-forth over the AstraZeneca vaccine globally could have serious consequences.

“We can’t afford not to use this vaccine if we are going to end the pandemic,” he said.

In some countries, authorities have already noted hesitance toward the AstraZeneca shot.

“People come and they are reluctant to take the AstraZeneca vaccine, they ask us if we also use anything else,” said Florentina Nastase, a doctor and co-ordinator at a vaccination centre in Bucharest, Romania. “There were cases in which people (scheduled for the AstraZeneca) didn’t show up, there were cases when people came to the centre and saw that we use only AstraZeneca and refused (to be inoculated).”

Meanwhile, the governor of Italy’s northern Veneto region had said earlier Wednesday that any decision to change the guidance on AstraZeneca would cause major disruptions to immunizations — at a time when Europe is already struggling to ramp them up — and could create more confusion about the shot.

“If they do like Germany, and allow Astra Zeneca only to people over 65, that would be absurd. Before it was only for people under 55. Put yourself in the place of citizens, it is hard to understand anything,” Luca Zaia told reporters.

The latest suspension of AstraZeneca came in Spain’s Castilla y Leon region, where health chief Veronica Casado said Wednesday that “the principle of prudence” drove her to put a temporary hold on the vaccine that she still backed as being both effective and necessary.

French health authorities had said they, too, were awaiting EMA’s conclusions, as were some officials in Asia.

On Wednesday, South Korea said it would temporarily suspend the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in people 60 and younger. In that age group, the country is only currently vaccinating health workers and people in long-term care settings.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said it would also pause a vaccine rollout to school nurses and teachers that was to begin on Thursday, while awaiting the outcome of the EMA’s review.

But some experts urged perspective. Prof Anthony Harnden, the deputy chair of Britain’s vaccination committee, said that the program has saved at least 6,000 lives in the first three months and will help pave the way back to normal life.

“What is clear it that for the vast majority of people the benefits of the Oxford AZ vaccine far outweigh any extremely small risk,” he said. “And the Oxford AZ vaccine will continue to save many from suffering the devastating effects that can result from a COVID infection.”

Source: – CTV News

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