Coronavirus: Manitoba opens COVID-19 vaccinations to older population

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Manitobans 95 years of age and over, and First Nations people 75 and older, can now begin booking vaccination appointments in the province as eligibility begins opening up to the general population.

It’s the first time Manitobans outside of the health-care sector and those living in congregate living settings will be eligible for immunization.

The population of those 95 and over in the province is around 12,000, but vaccination task force officials said that number is less due to the immunization campaign at personal care homes in the province during a technical briefing on Wednesday.

To gear up for an influx of bookings, the province has set up 2,000 phone lines to handle the call volume. The province is also in the midst of an online, self-serving booking system that’s currently in a pilot phase. That system will serve to complement the phone-booking system, but not replace it.

Vaccination task force officials said they have more than 370 trained agents to handle those calls at the moment, which have an average booking time of 12 minutes and an average wait time of under a minute. The centralized call centre has handled 19,400 calls since Feb. 8 when more first-dose appointments became available.

For Manitobans 95 and up, they will be permitted to have a family member or caregiver book their appointments and attend their immunizations with them. Those attending should be a household member or a designated support person.

The vaccination supersites are putting in place plans for the shift in clientele, including adding extra space and more wheelchair availability.

The booking process itself will have two layers of screening, including an initial automated recording followed by an agent-led eligibility questionnaire. Both first and second doses are booked during the call. In the event of longer wait times, a call-back option is available.

Those receiving their vaccinations are reminded to have their consent forms filled out and ready to submit upon arrival. Patients will also be required to have their Manitoba Health card to verify their identity.

Eligible Manitobans can call the toll-free booking line at 1-844-626-8222.

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