More questions and concerns are being raised about the snail's-pace rollout of Manitoba's COVID-19 vaccination effort as appointments at Winnipeg's "super site" injection clinic fell behind Tuesday morning.

Premier Brian Pallister, claiming again that every Manitoban could receive the vaccine by the end of March if the province had adequate supply, told a news conference Tuesday morning that he hoped the media wouldn't focus "on every hiccup" in the rollout.

Winnipeg Free Press

Delivering Crucial Information.
Right Here.

Support this work for just $3.92/week

More questions and concerns are being raised about the snail's-pace rollout of Manitoba's COVID-19 vaccination effort as appointments at Winnipeg's "super site" injection clinic fell behind Tuesday morning.

Premier Brian Pallister, claiming again that every Manitoban could receive the vaccine by the end of March if the province had adequate supply, told a news conference Tuesday morning that he hoped the media wouldn't focus "on every hiccup" in the rollout.

"Give us a break," he said, adding that things are just getting ramped up.

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister: "Give us a break."

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister: "Give us a break."

A source with information about the operations of the large vaccination clinic inside the RBC Convention Centre said only eight people were administering injections Tuesday morning — the facility has 30 stations — and appointments were falling behind schedule.

"People need their vaccine and we’re just going way too slow," the source said, speaking to the Free Press on the condition of anonymity.

"We’re just coming out of our second wave, which was really difficult, and I don’t understand why we’re not ready to go full-throttle, at least at this super centre. If we only have one place that it’s being given, it should be fully staffed and ready to go."

A provincial spokesperson said two people scheduled to administer vaccinations called in sick and technical issues caused delays during the morning. By the afternoon the clinic was considered fully staffed with 14 people doing the injections, trying to complete the 964 appointments.

“We’re just coming out of our second wave, which was really difficult, and I don’t understand why we’re not ready to go full–throttle, at least at this super centre. If we only have one place that it’s being given, it should be fully staffed and ready to go."

Dr. Joss Reimer, a member of the province's COVID-19 Vaccine Implementation Task Force, could not say how many appointments have been booked this week or state the maximum daily output at the convention centre, but noted clinics are staffed based on the number of appointments booked and availability of vaccine.

Pallister offered several explanations as to why Manitoba currently lags behind most other provinces in administering federally delivered vaccine doses, not all of which were backed by provincial staff.

The premier again argued that Manitoba is a far more challenging province to immunize than tiny Prince Edward Island, although Alberta, Quebec, British Columbia, Ontario and Saskatchewan are also among provinces that have been more efficient at getting needles in arms. He also reiterated that Manitoba made a bigger effort than other provinces to consult with Indigenous people before delivering doses to First Nations.

The Convention Centre in Winnipeg, the location of Manitoba's vaccination "super site".

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The Convention Centre in Winnipeg, the location of Manitoba's vaccination "super site".

And he said that Manitoba, unlike other provinces, was holding back significant supplies to ensure it could provide the required second dose to all who've received their initial shot.

That contradicted a policy change Pallister, himself, announced Dec. 30, when he said the province would begin holding back fewer doses for booster shots than originally planned.

Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of immunization.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of immunization.

Reimer said Tuesday that officials are "trying to use all of the vaccine that we have available" and "are not reserving any of it for second doses at this time."

She did say, however, that some supplies were being held back to ensure available stock for other clinics, such as a second super site that opens Monday inside Brandon's Keystone Centre.

A third large site is expected to open next month in Thompson.

Pallister continued to express frustration with Ottawa's slow deliveries of vaccine doses.

"We're only going to get enough in Manitoba for about one per cent of the population by the end of this month (and) approximately two per cent by the end of February." — Premier Brian Pallister on delivery of the vaccine doses

"We're only going to get enough in Manitoba for about one per cent of the population by the end of this month (and) approximately two per cent by the end of February," he said.

For the second straight week, the vaccine task force wouldn't say how many people the province needs to administer injections in the coming weeks or how many have been trained and employed thus far, although the premier admitted at one point Tuesday that hiring remains "an ongoing challenge."

Pfizer vaccines given to personal care home residents

Dr. Joss Reimer, a member of the provincial COVID-19 vaccine task force, said 120 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were given to residents of personal care homes in Winnipeg on Monday.

Pfizer-BioNTech has recommended against moving their product, which must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, out of clinic sites, but has provided some guidance on how to do so safely, Reimer said.

Dr. Joss Reimer, a member of the provincial COVID-19 vaccine task force, said 120 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were given to residents of personal care homes in Winnipeg on Monday.

Pfizer-BioNTech has recommended against moving their product, which must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, out of clinic sites, but has provided some guidance on how to do so safely, Reimer said.

“So we are exploring some limited ways that we might be able to move Pfizer to various sites. For example we did use Pfizer in some of our Winnipeg personal care homes, but have not at this point moved it outside of the urban environment,” she said.

“We will continue to work with Pfizer to establish the best possible processes to provide a high quality vaccine should we move it outside of our super centres.”

Meanwhile, the province continues to search for a full-time provincial director of COVID-19 immunization. Pallister said although the job hasn't been filled, planning work has been underway for months. The government has explained that hiring a co-ordinator now is part of an effort to return some health officials to their former roles.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said it is "demonstrably false" for the premier to say that all Manitobans could be immunized by the end of March.

"We're hearing time and time again about major issues that people have when they try and call in to book an appointment, people who should qualify (to receive the vaccine) still waiting on hold for hours and hours or being turned away entirely," the opposition leader said, referring to health-care workers.

Reimer said the COVID-19 immunization clinic at the convention centre was on track to exhaust its current supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week and said the clinic was operating smoothly with just under 1,000 doses given daily.

She couldn’t say what percentage of eligible health-care workers had received the vaccine.

Meanwhile, a pool of about 600 eligible staffers, including people who can inject the vaccine, are on standby and waiting to be assigned shifts at the clinic, according to an email sent to the casual staffers by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and obtained by the Free Press.

The COVID-19 vaccination site at the Convention Centre had only eight people administering injections Tuesday morning — the facility has 30 stations.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/JOHN WOODS

The COVID-19 vaccination site at the Convention Centre had only eight people administering injections Tuesday morning — the facility has 30 stations.

"If you have not received an email from me yet, you were not granted shifts for the upcoming week," says the email, sent last Friday.

"I understand some of you are disappointed by receiving very few if not any shifts but please keep in mind, this is a casual position and there are approximately 600 people that have submitted availability."

Reimer said the province has received more applications for positions in the clinics than are currently available and added the province is hiring 50 per cent more staff than required in the event additional vaccine doses arrive.

"We are planning to expand those clinics, we’re planning to open new super centres, and so we will be needing more people in the days coming," she said.

"We really encourage people to continue to apply, because we will be continually hiring new individuals in the days and weeks to come."

 

larry.kusch@freepress.mb.ca

danielle.dasilva@freepress.mb.ca

Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva
Reporter

Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.

   Read full biography

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

   Read full biography