Opinion

Two things will likely happen now that the province has given priority to fully vaccinated people as the economy gradually reopens: COVID-19 infections will continue to fall and more people will be encouraged to get immunized.

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Two things will likely happen now that the province has given priority to fully vaccinated people as the economy gradually reopens: COVID-19 infections will continue to fall and more people will be encouraged to get immunized.

Infections will fall because restrictions are being reduced slowly. There are still many safeguards in place, including mandatory mask use in indoor public places, as well as capacity limits in all public settings. Many of the venues that are reopening, including movie theatres, museums, galleries, casinos and bingo halls, are restricted to fully vaccinated people, which means the risk of transmission in those venues will be close to zero.

More people will be motivated to get vaccinated because they’re going to realize government wasn’t bluffing when it said a few weeks ago that fully immunized Manitobans would be given priority when the economy reopens. It has become a reality.

More people will be motivated to get vaccinated because they’re going to realize government wasn’t bluffing when it said a few weeks ago that fully immunized Manitobans would be given priority when the economy reopens. It has become a reality.

If you want to go to a Winnipeg Blue Bombers game or any large-scale sporting event, you will have to be fully vaccinated.

It’s not like people weren’t warned.

As a result, we will likely see an increase in vaccine appointments and more people showing up to walk-in clinics for their first dose. This will be the extra nudge some needed to get immunized. Even if we don’t see an uptick in vaccinations, we at least know that many public venues that were previously closed are reopening safely because of the full-immunization requirement.

None of this would be necessary if more people stepped up voluntarily to get vaccinated. Government is doing this largely to boost immunization rates. While the reopening targets still call for 75 per cent of people over the age of 12 to be fully vaccinated by Labour Day, the province knows the immunization rate has to be higher than that to return to normal life; it has to reach at least 85 per cent.

The Pallister government’s Phase 2 reopening plan is excellent. It strikes the right balance between reopening the economy, encouraging people to get vaccinated and reducing infection rates.

Manitoba is still about 300,000 people short of reaching that benchmark (although 115,000 people had second-dose appointments booked as of Tuesday).

The Pallister government’s Phase 2 reopening plan is excellent. It strikes the right balance between reopening the economy, encouraging people to get vaccinated and reducing infection rates. It’s more prudent than most other provinces, including Alberta and Saskatchewan, which have lifted virtually all of their public-health restrictions (a risky move as the more contagious Delta variant continues to circulate).

This pandemic isn’t over. Infection rates are going up in many parts of the world, including in the United States. The test-positivity rate in Nevada has more than doubled to 10 per cent from four just a few weeks ago (remember those Vegas Golden Knights hockey games?).

The only way back to normal is to get fully vaccinated. If Manitoba wants to safely reopen schools in September, it will need more than 80 per cent of people to be fully immunized (since kids under 12 are not expected to be eligible for vaccines when classes resume).

People have the right not to get vaccinated. But society also has a right to protect itself.

The anti-vaxxers won’t like it. However, there are times when the greater good must prevail. This is one of those times.

People have the right not to get vaccinated. But society also has a right to protect itself.

"We respect the right of people to make their own choice, Manitobans have that right," Premier Brian Pallister said Wednesday. "But we have an obligation as a government to encourage people to do what is best for our society as a whole, too, and that is clearly to get more people vaccinated."

This isn’t just about reducing infection rates, it’s about reopening businesses and saving jobs and livelihoods. It’s about addressing people’s mental health and restoring hospital capacity so Manitobans can get timely medical care again (ICU numbers are still well above normal).

The anti-vaxxers can take some comfort in knowing that, even though they won’t be able to go to a Bomber game or a movie any time soon, the new measures will benefit them eventually. These orders are temporary. Once they are lifted, everyone — including the unvaccinated — will reap the rewards.

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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