Opinion

There’s little doubt 80 per cent of eligible Manitobans will get a COVID-19 vaccine.

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There’s little doubt 80 per cent of eligible Manitobans will get a COVID-19 vaccine.

About half of Manitoba’s age cohorts have already reached that threshold or are close to it. Those who still have a way to go, including Manitobans in their 20s, only became eligible to book appointments less than a month ago.

The main reason the vast majority of Manitobans will get immunized is most trust the science and know getting fully vaccinated is not only safe and effective, it’s the only road back to a normal life.

It’s not like vaccines are a new phenomena — most have been getting them our entire lives.

More than 90 per cent of Manitobans over the 70 have been vaccinated ; those in their 60s hit 80 per cent in mid-May; and Manitobans in their 50s are close behind at 71 per cent. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

More than 90 per cent of Manitobans over the 70 have been vaccinated ; those in their 60s hit 80 per cent in mid-May; and Manitobans in their 50s are close behind at 71 per cent. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

The very small percentage of those vehemently opposed to vaccines — the anti-vaxxers, which make up around four per cent of the population, according to polling data released by the province Thursday — reject the science for reasons that can’t be defended with objective evidence.

It remains unclear what proportion of the population will need to be vaccinated to attain herd immunity, but the 80 per cent mark for people over the age of 12 appears to be the most realistic.

Manitobans over 70 have already surpassed the 90 per cent mark; those in their 60s hit 80 per cent in mid-May; Manitobans in their 50s are close behind at 71 per cent.

Younger cohorts still have some catching up to do. But even Manitobans in their 20s will likely hit 50 per cent this weekend.

Those numbers would be higher if the province decided to use more of its vaccine stockpile sooner (instead of hoarding tens of thousands of doses every week) and didn’t turn down supply from Ottawa.

Overall, vaccine acceptance in Manitoba is pretty strong.

The province’s polling shows 87 per cent have already received a shot or are planning to. Public support for vaccines has been rising in recent months, as concerns over safety fade and more people realize the only way back to pre-pandemic life is through immunization.

Still, there are pockets of hesitancy that need to be addressed.

Provincial research has shown some intend to get the shot, but are in no hurry or still have questions about the vaccine. For some, it’s an access issue. The province has not done a good job of servicing some communities with easily accessible walk-ups, as other provinces have done.

The state of Ohio is running a Vax-a-Million incentive program, with participants hoping to win either a $1 million prize for adults or a college scholarship for children, (Tony Dejak / The Associated Press files)

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The state of Ohio is running a Vax-a-Million incentive program, with participants hoping to win either a $1 million prize for adults or a college scholarship for children, (Tony Dejak / The Associated Press files)

Appointment-based access doesn’t work for a lot of people, especially for those on the fence. If the province wants to get more doses into the vaccine hesitant, they need to do more walk-ups.

The announcement this week by government it plans to set up mobile clinics in communities that face barriers to health care is a good first step.

The big question is whether the province should provide Manitobans with incentives to get vaccinated. It’s a tricky issue that could backfire.

As Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead on the province’s vaccine task force, suggested this week, incentives could be seen as bribes by government. They should be used with caution.

The province’s announcement Thursday, to provide $20,000 grants to community groups to promote vaccine use, seems harmless enough. Done properly, it could help encourage those on the fence to get a shot. Premier Brian Pallister said there will be more incentives announced next week, which could provide individuals with direct benefits.

Governments and the private sector in the U.S. have used all kinds of schemes to convince the fence-sitters to get immunized, from multimillion-dollar lotteries to free glazed doughnuts for those who can show a vaccine card.

It’s unlikely those gimmicks are needed here.

The vast majority of Manitobans seem to understand the necessity of getting vaccinated. The most important factor appears to be access and how vaccines are distributed, especially in areas where there are cultural barriers to health care.

Manitoba will get to 80 per cent coverage and likely beyond. We don't need the free doughnuts to do it.

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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