Situation Update

Since our update on Wednesday, 131 new cases of COVID-19 have been identified, including 64 today. This brings the total case count in Manitoba to 31,791.

The five-day test positivity rate is 3.9%, down from 4.6%. It is 3.3% in Winnipeg, down from 4.0%.

There are currently 1,197 active COVID-19 cases province-wide, basically unchanged from 1,196 on Wednesday.

There are currently 191 patients in hospital today related to COVID-19, down from 207. This includes 28 patients in ICU. This is the first time hospitalizations related to COVID-19 have dipped below 200 since early November.

Two new COVID-related deaths was reported, including one today. A total of 889 Manitobans have died due to COVID-19.

You can learn more in today’s public health bulletin

AstraZeneca Approved

Health Canada approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine today, which brings physicians one step closer to offering COVID-19 immunizations in their offices. 

Here are some key facts about the new vaccine:

  • It has been approved in 53 countries so far, more than Moderna’s mRNA vaccine, including the UK, the European Union and Australia. 
  • This is a non-replicating viral vector vaccine (Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA vaccines), which uses another virus that cannot copy itself to carry the pathogen’s genes. 
  • All three approved vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths. While AstraZeneca’s overall efficacy in clinical trials was strong, at 62.1%, its effectiveness in the real world is proving even stronger and much closer to the approved mRNA vaccine results. A good vaccine is better than no protection at all. 
  • The vaccine is much easier to ship and store, requiring a fridge rather than an ultra-cold freezer. This makes it much more suitable for physicians’ offices.
  • Two doses are required, four to 12 weeks apart. Emerging evidence is suggesting a longer gap is more effective. 

There are no details yet on when this vaccine will arrive in Manitoba or physicians’ offices. Canada has ordered 22 million doses of the vaccine slated to start arriving in April, though it is possible it could arrive earlier. 

The next step following Health Canada’s regulatory approval is for the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations to issue recommendations on the use of this vaccine. Some countries have targeted the AstraZeneca vaccine to those between the ages of 18 and 65, though evidence is emerging about its effectiveness among seniors as well. Health Canada regulators approved the vaccine for seniors too because of promising evidence from real world use of the vaccine.”

Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s chief medical advisor, expressed confidence in the safety and efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine today: If you look across all the clinical trials of the tens of thousands of people who were involved, the number of cases of people who died from COVID-19 that got vaccines was zero. The number of people that were hospitalized because their COVID-19 disease was so severe was zero. The number of people that died because of an adverse event or effect of the vaccine was zero.” 

Dr. Cory Baillie, President of Doctors Manitoba, met with several reporters today to talk about how physicians welcome today’s news and are keen to help immunize Manitobans. This approval means Manitobans are one step closer to getting the vaccine from their doctor, a trusted medical professional who knows their health situation best,” he explained. Hundreds of doctors are registered to offer the vaccine. We are ready.”

Doctors Encouraged to Participate

Doctors Manitoba is encouraging physicians to participate in the vaccine rollout. You can still apply to offer the vaccine in your practice. Please check our website for details on remuneration, expectations and how to apply to the province to participate.

The government has also posted a request for supply arrangements to expand its focused immunization teams” or mobile teams that visit First Nations, Rural/​Northern communities and other locations to administer the vaccine. You can learn more on MERX.

Vaccine Eligibility Update

On Wednesday, the province expanded the COVID-19 immunization campaign to the general population, starting with those aged 95 and older, and age 75 and over among First Nations people. 

Today, this was expanded to:

  • Individuals born in 1928 or before (age 92 and older), and
  • First Nation people born in 1948 or before (age 72 and older).

Updates will continue to be tweeted out by Doctors Manitoba as they occur, and can also be accessed on the provincial government’s vaccine site.

While doctors’ offices cannot offer the vaccine yet, you may offer vaccine-related visits to assess and counsel your patients and answer their questions.

Physicians can support their patients as they become eligible for the vaccine by:

  • Reaching out to help notify your patients who meet the criteria when they become eligible,
  • Inviting them to contact your office with questions or concerns,
  • Offering information and reassurance that the vaccines are safe, effective and recommended for nearly all Manitobans, and
  • Advising them how to book an appointment.

Appointments can be booked by individuals or someone helping them by calling the same provincial vaccine call centre that physicians have used for bookings: 18446268222. The call centre has been expanded, and if wait times get longer a call-back option will be offered too.

At this point, the general population can only book appointments at provincial super sites in Winnipeg, Brandon and Thompson. Provincial officials advised that changes have been made to the supersites to support older Manitobans who may have mobility challenges, including drop off points, providing wheelchairs, and the ability to bring along a support person (preferably from the same household or designated visitor) if needed to help.

Further Easing of Restrictions Considered

With the COVID-19 situation continuing to improve, Dr. Brent Roussin announced yesterday a list of proposed changes to further loosen public health restrictions. 

The government is considering a range of options that would be implemented over the next six weeks, or two three-week cycles. This would begin as early as March 5, and again on March 26

The changes being considered include:

  • Providing an option for indoor household visitors, allowing either the current two designated visitor rule, OR designating a single, second household to visit. The two visitor rule could include different households, but the household bubble rule would offer an alternative;
  • Increasing outdoor group gatherings to 10 people from five;
  • Increasing capacity for places of worship to 25% from 10%, to a maximum of 100 people, with precautions in place;
  • Allowing all businesses to operate, with precautions in place, except for indoor theatres, concert halls, casino and bingo halls;
  • Expanding capacity limits for retail stores and personal services to 50% from 25%;
  • Expanding restaurant capacity to 50% from 25%, but maintaining the requirement to only sit with the same household;
  • Allowing gym and fitness centre uses to exercise without a mask, though they’d still be required in other areas; and
  • Resuming indoor recreation, fitness, dance, and sports classes and group instruction at 25% capacity with other precautions also in place.

You can see the full list of proposed changes in a news release. Manitobans are encouraged to provide feedback on the changes in the next few days. 

Earlier in the week, he announced steps to more aggressively identify and monitor cases and contacts to help quickly contain any variant of concern from spreading. 

Health Care Worker Infections

CIHI released a report yesterday with an updated picture of health care worker COVID-19 infections across Canada.

Since their last report in July, the number of workers infected has tripled, with 65,920 confirmed cases among health care workers as of January 15, 2021. Health care workers make up nearly 10% of cases across the country.

CIHI reports that Manitoba has seen 1,792 health care worker infections. There were 24 deaths among health care workers across Canada, though these were limited to four provinces, including two deaths in Manitoba. These have been previously reported as a home care attendance and health care aide. We remember and honour the sacrifice of these individuals, who entered the health care field to help and care for others. 

More recent figures from provincial COVID-19 surveillance reveal 1,933 Manitoban health care workers have been diagnosed with COVID-19, including 72 physicians or physicians-in-training.

Physicians who have been infected or have had to isolate due to symptoms or a workplace exposure are reminded to apply for Doctors Manitoba’s Isolation Support Benefit.

Member Survey Reminder

All members should have received an email or letter inviting you to participate in our annual member survey. This is a thorough check up on how Doctors Manitoba is doing in supporting you, as well as your chance to provide input on important topics, such as pandemic issues, priorities for the next Master Agreement, and physician health and wellness.

The survey must be complete by March 5, and you can enter to win prizes, including one of two complimentary annual memberships for Doctors Manitoba or one of two $500 Visa cash cards.

If you have not received an email or letter on the survey, please contact us at general@​doctorsmanitoba.​ca.

Webinar: Insurance and Wealth Protection for Physicians

Doctors Manitoba and MD Financial Management are teaming up to offer a webinar next week focused on insurance and wealth protection options and strategies, specifically for physicians and their families. Whether you are just starting your medical career or approaching retirement, this session will offer information and tips for physicians about insurance products and wealth protection strategies.

Join us on Thursday March 4, at 7PM for this webinar. Register now to join us!

To view previous updates, click here.