Group of doctors want expanded Manitoba vaccine mandate, consideration of booster vaccine for high-risk people

A group of Manitoba doctors has written a letter to the province’s minister of health urging the government to expand the vaccine mandate, consider a booster vaccine for high-risk people, and increase the capacity for COVID-19 testing.

In the letter dated Sept. 1, the doctors said they “strongly endorse” the mask and vaccine mandates recently announced. However, they said, with schools reopening and the start of the fourth wave in Canada, more needs to be done.

The letter states that the doctors are pleading with the government to:

  • Evaluate and remediate ventilation and filtration in classrooms;
  • Expand the vaccine mandate to first responders;
  • Legislate full paid sick leave for infected or quarantined workers;
  • Increase the capacity for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing; and
  • Consider making a third vaccine dose available for high-risk people, including those who are immunocompromised, elderly people living in communal settings, and frontline healthcare workers.

The letter says the province’s current pandemic situation is different from what was experienced before the third wave, citing the fact that the fourth wave is dominated by the Delta variant, which has an increased risk of transmission.

The letter from the doctors says that though being fully immunized against COVID-19 provides significant protection against severe illness and death, a double-vaccinated person can still get COVID-19 and transmit it to other people. They add that the fourth wave will differentially impact those who are unvaccinated, including children under 12, who are not currently eligible for the vaccine.

“Severe COVID-19 infection in children, while tragic, was previously uncommon, however, the experience in other countries suggests that waves dominated by the Delta variant are associated with higher levels of severe illness, hospitalization or even death among children,” the letter says.

“In addition, fully immunized individuals, particularly seniors, who may not be sufficiently protected due to underlying illness or to waning immunity due to lapsed time since vaccination are also at higher risk with Delta infection.”

The letter goes on to say that despite the low case numbers of COVID-19 over the summer, emergency rooms, hospital wards and ICU are still full because of burnout and resignation of health-care workers, nursing shortages, inadequate resources, and delays in the health-care system.

“Manitobans have now experienced months of economic and mental health hardship with lockdowns and school closures,” the letter says.

“We have an absolute duty as a society to ensure the well-being of our children, and to that end keeping schools safe and open is an urgent priority. Many children have already fallen behind in so many ways. We must take proactive measures to protect them and to keep schools open.”

The doctors urge the province to take the recommendations provided in the letter to make sure residents are protected from the fourth wave and to ensure that schools and businesses can remain open and safe.

The letter to Health Minister Audrey Gordon was signed by a dozen doctors with a range of specialties, including critical care, infectious diseases, geriatric medicine, and gastroenterology.