The province is sharing its next steps in its plan to vaccinate Manitobans for COVID-19, including hopes to double capacity by April.

"The big thing is, we will be ready to pump out 20,000 doses a day come April first," Johanu Botha, co-lead, Vaccine Implementation Task Force says.

Thirteen COVID-19 vaccination supersites are being planned for, with two more to open by March 5. The two new sites, in the Morden-Winkler area and Selkirk, will bring the total of official sites opening so far to six. The province says they will province more information on the new sites in the coming days.

"Around that time, given our forecast, it looks like we will be able to open each of them with one tray of Pfizer, around 1,000 appointments, which is again, very low for how much we can push through there over a week," Botha says, noting that this volume lower than they expect for the next quarter of vaccinations.

The supercentres will act as a muster point for all vaccine teams in the area, including pharmacists and physicians, pop-up sites, and FIT teams to distribute the vaccines. The locations are decided based on population and geographical locations.

"It is good for us to have those regions active. It is good to get them ready as distribution hubs."

Botha says the only thing stopping the province from vaccinations is having the vaccines themselves, something the Premier is hoping to change.

pallister feb 17Pallister says the contract between Providence Therapeutics and Manitoba has not been signed yet. (Screenshot: Government of Manitoba/YouTube)

"Seeing us go from that ranking to 22 to 29 to 35, to 44, to 57 yesterday, is not making me comfortable and I do not think it is making Canadians comfortable," Premier Brian Pallister says. "I think we need to take action now, not just for today, but for the future as well."

Understanding there may be vaccine hesitancy, Pallister says he has spoken to North Dakota's government about this issue, both agreeing herd immunity will be important. 

"Part of that, I think, is to help people understand the benefits and understand that the risks are pretty minimal. At the same time, there might be honest reasons why people might be concerned about taking a vaccine and so we have to address the honest concerns and encourage people."

Currently, Winnipeg and Brandon's supersites are closed until Thursday due to low volumes of vaccines. Anticipating more vaccines to arrive in the province, the province is preparing its FIT teams to give first-dose immunizations to residents of high-priority sites, beginning in Winnipeg and Brandon, as early as Friday.

Giving one week's notice, something the province does not typically do, the first round of general population vaccinations will begin for Manitobans aged 95 years or older.

reimerDr. Joss Reimer is a medical officer of health with Manitoba Health and Seniors Care, and Manitoba Vaccine Implementation Task Force medical lead. (Screenshot: Government of Manitoba/YouTube)

"We want to have this next week where we can work with some of our government partners, some of our community partners, with loved ones of those folks over 95, to try to address the transportation needs to assure the processes we have at our supersites are appropriate for this group," Dr. Joss Reimer says.

She says the supersite is "not the perfect model for everyone" and is looking to find ways to vaccinate people who cannot go to the centres. 

Over 2,000 Manitobans are part of the vaccination efforts after the province's latest hiring round of 828 staff.

Second dose appointments for personal care home residents are underway, with 3,600 residents in 49 personal care homes receiving theirs this week, completely vaccinating all eligible and willing PCH residents by the end of February. Gimli Community Health Centre, Teulon Hunter Memorial Hospital, Gladstone Health Centre (transitional beds) and Vita and District Health Centre residents have received both doses. 

The province says 56,707 doses of vaccine have been administered, including 35,009 first doses and 21,698-second doses.