Manitobans received an update on Wednesday about the vaccination campaign in the province, but opposition parties are criticizing the current rollout, saying the government was not ready.
Premier Brian Pallister said vaccines will start to be rolled out to personal care homes starting next week and 5,165 Manitobans have received the vaccine since it arrived in December.
"As we receive more vaccine supply we'll continue to use more of our planned capacity. We have the capacity to do a lot more than we're able to do because of the limited amount of vaccine, but we're planning and hoping for the best," Pallister said a news conference on Wednesday.
Pallister also noted that a plan is in place to start vaccinating First Nations, as over 5,000 Moderna shots are going to remote communities in the province.
"That proposal was developed and received yesterday and we will be acting on it immediately, and our team is finalizing logistical challenges right now."
He did note it has been a complicated process and many tough decisions are being made, but the province will continue to work with First Nations leaders.
WHEN WILL ALL MANITOBANS RECEIVE THE VACCINE?
Pallister was asked if it realistic that everyone in the province will be able to get the vaccine by September.
He said there are many factors to that and the main factor depends on how fast more vaccine can come to Manitoba.
"We'll only have enough for about 10 per cent of our population in Manitoba by say the end of March," said Pallister, "But, we have the capacity to get 100 per cent of those who wanted the vaccinations by the end of March right now. So, we're ready. If the prime minister can deliver more vaccines, we're ready to get them to people."
Dr. Joss Reimer, who is the medical officer of health and part of the Manitoba COVID-19 vaccine task force, said the province would be able to handle an increased capacity.
"I can confirm that, if we had more doses, we would be able to provide more doses today and throughout quarter one," she said. "We absolutely do have a scale up ability."
Despite these comments, NDP Leader Wab Kinew said the province was not ready for the vaccine rollout.
Kinew noted that the province has just posted a job position for an immunization director.
"It seemed like the one option they had to get things right was to get the vaccination campaign off to a good start, but now they have failed to do that too," said Kinew. "The fact that they're posting for a job, even though health officials were telling us in September that there was a 50 per cent chance of a vaccine being ready for January, tells you that this government was ignoring their public health advice yet again."
Reimer said the reason for the hiring now is to look into the future of the vaccine rollout.
"We want to be thinking about our long-term plans because this immunization campaign is going to be going on for many months in the future," said Reimer.
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said is unacceptable that this kind of position has not been filled.
"This is something that should have been advertised for and filled back in June or July," said Lamont. "This government isn't organized."
He added that Manitoba currently has all the Moderna doses sitting in Winnipeg waiting to be used when they could have already gone into people's arms and protected more people from COVID-19.
Appointment bookings are still available for upcoming weeks for health-care workers who meet the criteria to get a vaccine, as the province looks to continue to ramp up the number of shots.
The premier was also asked if there are any plans in place to add more staff to help with wait times for those who are trying to make an appointment.
He said that is one of the challenges that they are working on and that major improvements have already been made by the vaccination team.
"The process isn't simple, but it is worth the wait, and so again I'd suggest to Manitobans, I'd suggest to those who are concerned about waiting now, remember you're the one per cent of the population going to get a vaccine, 99 per cent of us would like to have those waits, we'd like to be able to get the vaccine, so put it in perspective."
Pallister said the hope is they can meet the initial target of vaccinating 900 people a day and they expect that number to grow as more vaccine becomes available.