COVID-19 vaccinations are our quickest route back to normal
By Dr. Joss Reimer
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Monday, April 26, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged all of us and affected almost every part of our lives. But now that the vaccine is available, it's likely going to be the quickest route "back to normal" for you and those you love.
As Medical Lead of Manitoba's Vaccine Task Force, I'm happy to report that the when it comes to a willingness to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the vast majority of Manitobans are on board and eager to do their part.
More than a quarter of adults in Manitoba have already been vaccinated with at least their first shot, with thousands more vaccinations taking place every day. This is an urgent situation and I can assure you that there is a plan to get every dose out to our neighbours, loved ones and family members throughout the province, as quickly as possible. We have large supersites to immunize as many people at once as we can, and also target campaigns to reach smaller communities and some of our most vulnerable people. The team is sending doses all over the province every day, so we can reach every adult in Manitoba that wants a dose.
It's making a difference: we've already seen a drastic drop in COVID-19 outbreaks in personal care homes, something that's been quite remarkable to watch happen. In fact, while I'm writing this, there is only ONE case in a personal care home resident in Winnipeg! One person! Assuming vaccine supplies remain steady, all adults in the province could have their first dose by June – and hopefully earlier – which we expect would dramatically reduce the number of COVID-19-related deaths and admissions to intensive care units throughout the province.
Original estimates were that we needed a minimum of 70 per cent of adults in Manitoba to be immunized before we reached any sort of "herd immunity" (a colloquial term used to describe when a large portion of a community becomes immune to an infection via vaccination or previous infection, making person-to-person transmission of disease unlikely). Personally, I'd like to see every person who's eligible and able to be vaccinated to do so.
While we are definitely off to a good start, we do have a long way to go.
It might surprise you to know that the biggest reason why people don't get vaccines is not that they are afraid of them, or opposed to vaccination. Rather, it's that it hasn't made it to the top of their to-do list.
We certainly don't expect that everyone who is eligible can make an appointment or be immunized within days. We understand that people still have lives to live, and that factors such as transportation, child care, work and family commitments can result in temporary barriers of inconvenience. Still, we encourage everyone to get vaccinated as soon as they possibly can.
The good news is that we're working hard to make getting vaccinated as easy as possible by opening more vaccination supersites and pop-up clinics targeted to those most at risk. Simply put, we're working as hard as we can to get needles into arms in the quickest, safest ways possible.
We know that a minority of people with suppressed immune systems would not gain a sufficient immune response following vaccination. Some people who would have severe allergic reactions to components in the vaccine would be advised to see an allergist before being immunized, or to wait for a vaccine that was safer for them. In both instances, those people are reliant on the people around them to be vaccinated.
As for the rest of us…let's do our part and get vaccinated as quickly as possible. I was proud to get my first dose a few weeks ago, so I can protect myself, my loved ones, my patients, and the people around me.
Vaccines are by far the safest medical intervention the health-care system can provide. You should also know that the risks associated with COVID-19 are much greater than any risks associated with the currently available vaccines.
There are currently four COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada, three of which are now in use in Manitoba (arrival of the fourth is yet to be determined). All of them are safe and effective in preventing COVID-19, so when you're eligible, choose to be immunized with the first vaccine that's available to you. Side effects are generally mild and might include tenderness at the site of the injection, a low fever, aching joints, a headache or lethargy.
There's no doubt that the pandemic has been hard on everyone and that we all long to put it behind us. To get there as quickly as possible, it's essential that even people who aren't at high risk of ending up in the hospital, or who aren't at high risk of dying or other serious side effects, get vaccinated.
It's exciting to see light at end of tunnel, but we can only get there if we do it together.
For reliable information about COVID-19 immunization, visit protectmb.ca.
Dr. Joss Reimer is Medical Lead of Manitoba's Vaccine Task Force.