A long-awaited milestone has been hit for COVID-19 vaccinations, and now, the province will be sharing what's next.

For months, a 70 per cent target was the province's goal to great herd immunity with vaccinations in adults. Now that the province has its milestone, Manitoban continues to be under strict restrictions.

"Seventy per cent vaccine uptake won't take us to that textbook definition of herd immunity where viral transmission is not possible in our communities at all anymore, but it doesn't mean that 70 per cent wouldn't see much lower amounts of transmission," Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba's COVID-19 vaccination task force says in a Wednesday press conference.

She says if Manitoba never reaches "textbook herd immunity" the province will continue to see massive benefits.  She says there may not be a "hard and fast" number of vaccinations needed to reach that immunity.

"I think we are disappointed when there is a variant that spread more easily. Nobody wants to hear about COVID getting worse than it is today."

Reimer says they are looking at an incremental reopening, starting with the lowest risk force.

"We plan to step-wise reopen as vaccine uptake goes up, even knowing that 70 per cent is not going to provide us perfect protection from this virus."

Province-wide, she thinks an 80-90 per cent uptake rate is achievable. 

Dr. Brent Roussin is set to announce new Public Health Orders Wednesday afternoon. Premier Brian Pallister says a reopening plan will be shared on Thursday.

Manitoban hospitals continue to be maxing out their capacities, with three dozen people being treated out of the province as of Tuesday morning.

Reimer says she is "very concerned" about communities with low vaccination uptake.

"If there are many people who are still susceptible who are interacting with each other, that leaves a space for the virus to continue to survive and grow. And that puts us all at risk because there is still that pocket where the virus can still be spread."

She says this means the virus could go to otherwise protected communities.


Expanded eligibility, mixing vaccines

Manitoba's latest second-dose vaccine eligibility is expanding to include those who received their first dose on or before May 4. Health officials are encouraging Manitobans to stick with their original vaccine type, AstraZeneca excluded.

Anticipated shipment delays are bringing the province to allow mixing between the mRNA vaccines, but notes they do not recommend it. Citing a study out of Germany, they have found mixing AstraZeneca and mRNA vaccines has at least as good of protection as two AstraZeneca vaccines.