Manitoba expects a major boost in its supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for the last weeks of July.
The latest vaccine briefing document says 113,500 Pfizer doses are confirmed for the week beginning July 19, followed by 133,400 doses the week after that.
In the seven-day period ending Tuesday, Manitoba administered an average of 25,042 COVID-19 vaccine doses per day.
The province now expects to administer more than 35,000 doses a day by the third week of July.
The weekly Pfizer delivery, which had held steady at 87,800 since the end of May, is reduced for the first two weeks of July to 32,800 and 52,700. Last week, the province had no shipment confirmation beyond that timeframe.
That prompted the province to stop taking new second-dose appointments for 12-17-year-olds. Right now Pfizer is the only COVID-19 vaccine approved for that age group.
That led to long lineups at walk-in clinics where parents hoped to get first or second doses for their children.
People started lining up outside the Leila Avenue vaccination supersite in Winnipeg on Tuesday night in order to grab a walk-in spot on Wednesday morning. By 7 a.m., staff at the site started turning people away.
The Pfizer shortfall had also resulted in adults swapping their appointments to Moderna and transferring their booked Pfizer doses to someone younger.
The surge in demand for vaccines could be tempting for criminals, which is the experience in other parts of the country, said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba’s COVID-19 vaccine implementation task force.
Health Canada has been made aware of some people claiming to have access to vaccines for sale, she said. The health agency has also been advised of circumstances where people have been notified about next steps after their vaccine by people not authorized to provide such information.
That could be an attempt to gain private information, so people are urged to be alert.
“Please be aware that the COVID vaccine is not for sale. If anyone tries to sell the vaccine, this is illegitimate,” Reimer said, although there have not been any incidents reported in Manitoba so far.
“But if you are aware of any suspicious vaccine activity, such as someone trying to sell the vaccine or supply it in volume at cost, please do contact your local law enforcement agency.”
Manitoba set a new single-day record on Tuesday, administering 34,320 COVID-19 vaccine doses. The previous record was 32,616, set on May 27.
That works out to Canada’s top per capita rate, with 97,909 shots for every 100,000 residents. Ontario is second with 97,856.
“We are so pleased today to be able to celebrate the fact that more Manitobans are immunized than at any other time in our vaccine rollout and that those numbers continue to go up,” Reimer said.
“We hope this trend will continue, especially now that eligibility is wide open for everyone, including youth who are aged 12 to 17.”
2nd doses climb
So far, 73.6 per cent of Manitobans age 12 or older have received a first vaccine dose, the province’s vaccination dashboard says, while 42.4 per cent have two doses.
“It’s really worthy of celebration to know what we have all done together to protect ourselves, protect our loved ones and protect our communities,” Reimer said.
“So I want to thank everyone in Manitoba for these exciting numbers.”
The province is aiming to get a first dose to 75 per cent of people age 12 and up and second doses to 50 per cent by Aug. 2, as part of its reopening plan.
If Manitoba reaches that goal, capacity limits on businesses are expected to increase to 50 per cent. Those changes could come earlier, should the targets be met sooner, officials have said.
If current trends hold, the target is likely to be reached in early to mid-July, said Johanu Botha, operations lead for the vaccine implementation task force.
“We need to keep this momentum going … and there’s good reason to believe that we will,” he said, with what he called a “skyrocketing” trajectory for second dose uptake.
Although the rate for first doses is moving much more slowly, it is gaining a little steam, Botha said.
“What we have seen over the last couple weeks or so is it was levelling off and it’s [now] slightly going back up in speed,” he said.
“Where it used to increase by 0.2 per cent every day, it’s now 0.3, 0.4. That’s a really broad indicator in the dose one uptick and it probably reflects on a whole host of factors.”
Among those is the outreach into regions where there’s a lot of vaccine hesitancy, through community-hosted clinics, provincial incentives or walk-in options.
“We are seeing a positive early sign that we are increasing up on that dose one, certainly to the point where we’re going to meet all those [reopening] targets.”
The third phase of reopening will come on Labour Day, if 80 per cent of Manitobans have one dose and 75 per cent have two.
Reimer touched on the topic of breakthrough COVID-19 infections — cases in a person who has been vaccinated against the virus — saying it should not discourage anyone from getting vaccinated.
The chance of getting COVID-19 without any vaccine protection is vastly higher, she said.
“We know that none of these vaccines are 100 per cent effective, but we also know that it’s very rare to get infected after the vaccine and even more rare to become severely ill,” Reimer said.
In all of the COVID-19 hospitalizations in Manitoba from Jan. 1 of this year until June 27, only 1.2 per cent of the people were fully vaccinated, she said.
“So I don’t want anyone to be concerned about these breakthrough cases. They are very rare and I don’t want them to prevent anyone from being vaccinated.”