Herd immunity is approaching.
Manitoba's vaccine task force expects that by early June, seven out of every 10 people age 12 and older will have received a COVID-19 vaccine dose.
It has been about five months since the first dose was injected in the province. But the slow, steady march to herd immunity has accelerated in the past month.
If all goes as planned, nearly 826,000 Manitobans will be vaccinated with at least one dose by June 6.
The exact portion of the population that needs to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to achieve herd immunity is not known — particularly with more infections from highly contagious variants. But experts estimate that having 70 per cent of a population vaccinated could significantly reduce ongoing spread of the virus.
To hit the 70 per cent target, the Manitoba government and its partners in the campaign have to administer 290,797 first doses in 24 days, or an average of 12,117 a day.
As of Thursday, 443,180 people had received one dose and another 78,824 had got two and were fully immunized, a total of 522,004 people — 48 per cent of the adult population — with either full or partial protection against the virus.
Due to data entry backlogs, an additional 4,727 doses had been given to people as of Thursday, but were not specified as first or second shots.
In the past seven days, the province increased the number of first doses injected daily to an average of 11,097, from 7,716 last week.
And by Saturday, another 31,290 doses will be delivered at provincial clinics. The province said 82,951 shots are scheduled next week.
A provincial planning document shows an additional 170,000 doses are scheduled between May 24 and June 6.
Altogether, an estimated 284,241 appointments are on the books between Friday and June 6, and two new mass-vaccination clinics will open before the end of the month in rural Manitoba.
First Nations leaders say the campaign to deliver first doses to reserve residents will be complete by the end of May.
The Manitoba First Nations COVID-19 Pandemic Response Coordination Team said Thursday that a total of 80,000 doses (including second shots) will been administered on reserves by May 31. Another 20,000 are planned by the end of June to finish the second-dose campaign.
Johanu Botha, the task force’s planning, operations and logistics lead, said Manitoba may be able to schedule even more appointments in May if additional doses of Moderna's vaccine from the federal government arrive.
As of Thursday, Ottawa had yet to confirm any Moderna deliveries beyond the 37,500 expected Monday.
"The federal projections are showing that we should be getting more Moderna after this shipment, in alignment with our second-dose plans," Botha said Wednesday.
The bulk of upcoming appointments will use the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Manitoba received a combined total of 73,710 doses Tuesday and Wednesday, and another 235,170 Pfizer doses will arrive before June 6, for a total of 308,880 available doses.
As of Wednesday, all adult Manitobans were eligible to book an appointment for a shot. Just over one million adults live in the province.
But with the recent Health Canada approval of Pfizer-BioNTech for youths between the ages of 12 and 15, the eligible population has expanded.
There are about 111,000 people between the ages of 12 and 17 in Manitoba, bringing the eligible population to 1.18 million. Previously, the task force said age eligibility would be lowered to 12 years old by the end of next week.
However, the province’s timeline to immunize 70 per cent of the 12 and older population doesn’t mean coverage among all age groups, particularly among younger demographics, will hit 70 per cent by that date.
And it doesn't mean that every young person who wants a vaccine will get one by June 6.
In Manitoba, vaccine uptake in older demographics has far surpassed the 70 per cent goal, meaning fewer doses are available for younger age groups, prolonging the campaign to get a first dose to everyone who wants one.
As of Thursday, 77.5 per cent of Manitobans 50 and older had received at least one dose.
Among retirees, the uptake rate is even greater, with 80 per cent of residents their 60s and more than 90 per cent of people in their 70s and 80s immunized.
Forty per cent of people in their 40s have been immunized and less than 25 per cent of people under 30 had a shot, as of Thursday.
The proportion of the youth population that is vaccinated by June 6 will likely depend on whether additional shipments of Moderna arrive, which can be offered to people 18 and older.
As of Thursday, the earliest appointment available at the RBC Convention Centre mass vaccination clinic was June 5.
The task force said Manitobans will be able to start booking their second-dose appointments by the end of next week at the latest, beginning with people prioritized for medical reasons.
Appointments will then open to those who got their shots earlier in the year and continue based on the date the first shot was received.
The second-dose campaign will get underway in mid-June. However, the task force will continue to accept first-dose appointments for people who may not have signed up when they first became eligible, and youths who turn 12 in the summer months.
"There will certainly be some folks who book an appointment in July for their first dose, and we welcome them to book if they haven’t already… at that point," said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead for the vaccine task force.
In the month of June, 351,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech will be shipped to Manitoba.
The federal government has yet to confirm deliveries of Moderna vaccine for the summer, and has not yet provided a vaccine delivery schedule for July.
However, provincial officials say expected deliveries include enough vaccine to complete the second-dose campaign (for those immunized by early next month) by the end of July.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.