Opinion

It’s possible Manitoba could reach its goal of immunizing 70 per cent of its adult population against COVID-19 by early June.

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It’s possible Manitoba could reach its goal of immunizing 70 per cent of its adult population against COVID-19 by early June.

It’s highly unlikely people under age 40 will reach that threshold, though, given how far behind the province has fallen in its vaccine targets.

That’s problematic, since the variants of concern now circulating appear to cause more severe illness among younger adults.

The province’s vaccine task force set April 15 as the date 70 per cent of Manitobans ages 60-69 would receive their first shot (under its low-range scenario). It still haven’t hit that target. As of Wednesday, 64 per cent of Manitobans in that cohort had received their first dose.

The target date for ages 50-59 is May 7. The province is nowhere near meeting that goal, with only 32 per cent of that group having received their first shot.

The province will likely fall further behind for Manitobans in their 40s. Age eligibility for the general population is still at 50-plus (40-plus for the AstraZeneca vaccine at pharmacies and clinics). Most people in their 40s are not even booking appointments yet.

Under the province’s low-range scenario, 70 per cent of Manitobans ages 40-49 were supposed to receive their first shot by May 17.

That won’t happen. Which means the targets for those under 40 will probably not be met, either.

Vaccine task force officials have fallen so far behind their targets, they’ve stopped publishing them by age in weekly technical briefing reports.

Still, the overall 70 per cent goal by early June is attainable — mainly because of the high uptake for Manitobans ages 70-plus.

It’s one of the success stories of the vaccine rollout: almost 90 per cent of Manitobans over 70 have received at least one dose of vaccine.

The reason the province has fallen so far behind in meeting targets for younger age groups is not because of a shortage of vaccine supply. The rollout has just been slow.

It has sped up somewhat over the past week, after the province made some adjustments, including dropping eligibility for AstraZeneca to Manitobans over 40.

It’s one of the success stories of the vaccine rollout: almost 90 per cent of Manitobans over 70 have received at least one dose of vaccine.

However, even those doses continue to move slowly. As of Wednesday, there were still 24,673 AstraZeneca shots in fridges at pharmacies and clinics, with no target date on when they will be used up.

Most of that supply comes from a 54,600-dose shipment that arrived in Manitoba nearly a month ago. It’s ludicrous all those doses haven’t been administered yet. It was a logistical error to distribute vaccines to third-party providers that can’t get shots into arms faster.

That’s not the only reason Manitoba’s vaccine rollout continues to be sluggish. The task force still had almost 28,000 doses in freezers for super sites, pop-up clinics and focused immunization teams this week, when it received its Pfizer-BioNTech shipment Wednesday.

Between AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna, there’s at least 50,000 doses on hand that should be in arms by now.

Failure to do so has made it more difficult for Manitoba to fight the third wave of the pandemic. Every person who is immunized helps interrupt the chain of transmission.

However, the situation may be improving.

The province planned to administer 8,999 doses Wednesday, not including pharmacies/clinics and First Nations. Also, with weekly supply reaching no less than 73,700 doses next week, daily doses are expected to rise to 8,000-12,000 per day in May.

If the province can avoid its previous mistakes of maintaining larger-than-necessary inventories (and pushing too much supply through slow distribution channels), it should be able to reach its overall goal of getting first shots into 70 per cent of adults by early June.

It will likely take a few more weeks for those under 40 to reach that threshold.

By Canada Day, at least 70 per cent of Manitoba adults in all age cohorts will likely have had a first shot.

That’s something to look forward to.

tom.brodbeck@freepress.mb.ca

Tom Brodbeck

Tom Brodbeck
Columnist

Tom has been covering Manitoba politics since the early 1990s and joined the Winnipeg Free Press news team in 2019.

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