Manitoba expanded age eligibility today for COVID-19 vaccines to anyone 45 and older, with plans for everyone 12 and up to be able to book within the next three weeks.
All adults should be eligible to schedule a vaccination appointment by May 21, Johanu Botha, co-lead of the vaccine implementation task force, said on Wednesday.
People age 12 and up may also become eligible to book a shot by the same day, said Botha.
Early Wednesday, Health Canada approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for those 12 to 15. It was already approved for 16 and older.
“The question will be on when to fit them in,” Botha said during a Wednesday vaccine technical briefing. “If we do see lower take-up or hesitancy, then there is a small chance we may be able to open it up even earlier.”
Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the vaccine implementation task force, said Manitoba is still reviewing the approval.
“We do intend to include eligibility for younger Manitobans along with adults as we move forward,” Reimer said during a news conference on Wednesday.
Existing consent protocols for minors will apply, Reimer said.
More than a third of Manitoba’s recent active cases have been people 19 and under.
With more young people eligible for vaccination, Manitoba may have a greater chance of reaching herd immunity, Reimer said. Experts say once 70 per cent of a population is immunized, the ability for a virus to spread is greatly diminished.
More than 40 per cent of Manitoba adults already have had at least one dose.
In the coming weeks, the province will open vaccination to new age groups on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It’s possible age ranges may drop by about five years on average with each update, Botha said.
All Manitoba adults are expected to get their first shots by June 4-8. If Manitoba includes adolescents in its vaccine eligibility, timelines for first dose completion would extend to June 11-15.
Second dose appointments will begin shortly after first doses are done. The goal is to open up second dose bookings starting May 22, Botha said. The second dose campaign is expected to be done by the end of July.
The first wave of people to be eligible for second doses will be immunocompromised individuals and those with certain medical conditions. Once they are vaccinated, priority for second doses will be based on when people got their first shot.
Botha also said a new supersite will open in Gimli, at the recreation centre at 45 Centennial Rd., in late May.
No more hot spots
The news about expanded eligibility comes days after Manitoba opened up appointments to all First Nations, Métis and Inuit adults.
Manitoba’s vaccine rollout has undergone a series of changes in recent weeks that have both expanded eligibility generally and targeted some high-risk populations in particular.