Situation Update

Since our update on Monday, 106 new cases of COVID-19 have been identified, including 51 today. This brings the total case count in Manitoba to 32,000.

The five-day test positivity rate is 3.8%, down from 3.9%. It is 3.2% in Winnipeg, up from 3.0%.

There are currently 1,146 active COVID-19 cases province-wide, down slightly from 1,171.

There are currently 186 patients in hospital today related to COVID-19, up slightly from 184. This includes 24 patients in ICU.

Five new COVID-related deaths were reported, including three today. A total of 901 Manitobans have died due to COVID-19.

Eight cases have been confirmed as variants of concern, including six B.1.1.7 (originally from UK) and two B.1.351 (original from South Africa). This is three more cases than our last report on Monday, and now includes the first cases of the B.1.351 variant (South Africa) in Manitoba.

You can learn more in today’s public health bulletin.

Man​i​to​baVac​cine​.ca Immunization Campaign

Doctors Manitoba has launched a major public campaign to strengthen vaccine confidence and uptake in Manitoba, and provide the public with information they can rely on from a trusted source: physicians. Our new online resource, Man​i​to​baVac​cine​.ca, offers vaccine facts along with an eligibility checker. Manitobans not yet eligible can sign up for notifications, and once clinics start offering the vaccine locations will be listed on the site too.

You’re encouraged to help by sharing this new vaccine website with your patients and colleagues! We’ve heard from many doctors being bombarded with questions about the vaccines, and we hope these resources will help.

You’ll find campaign resources for physicians that you can use and adapt, including:

  • Key messages to use with patients about the vaccines
  • Posters for your clinic
  • Sample email text to send to all of your patients
  • Sample voicemail and website messages
  • Suggested social media posts and graphics

Since we launched publicly yesterday, thousands have already checked their eligibility and signed up for eligibility notifications. Today, we sent the first notifications for eight 89-year old Manitobans who became eligible for the vaccine today.

Let us know what you think of the campaign, and what else we can do to help you and your patients on this vaccine journey. Email us at covid19@​doctorsmanitoba.​ca

Thank you to Dr. Cory Baillie and Dr. Kristjan Thompson for sharing Man​i​to​baVac​cine​.ca with the public through several media interviews. We also appreciate the advice of several physicians who have also contributed to the vaccine facts on our website. If you’d like to help review new content for the site, email us at covid19@​doctorsmanitoba.​ca.

AstraZeneca Safe and Effective

On Friday, Health Canada approved AstraZeneca, declaring it safe for those age 18 and older. On Monday, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended targeting the vaccine to those age 18 – 64, and target mRNA vaccines for those 65 and older. Doctors are getting a lot of questions about this discrepancy, and we’ve been asked for facts to help with their response.

We posted a short answer on Man​i​to​baVac​cine​.ca for patients, messaging physicians can use with patients too:

At this point, Canadian recommendations suggest targeting the AstraZeneca vaccine to those aged 18 – 64. This is because the original studies did not include a lot of older adults. More information will help to better understand the effectiveness of this specific vaccine among those aged 65 and over. Some countries, like the UK and Australia, are using the AstraZeneca vaccine on adults of all ages, including seniors. This vaccine is safe for all adults, including seniors.
This recommendation could change in Canada as more data emerges. Physicians will be monitoring the recommendations and emerging research closely, and we’ll update this site as more real-world data becomes available.

Dr. Joss Reimer, the Medical Lead on the provincial vaccine implementation task force, confirmed Manitoba will follow NACI’s recommendations for now, but she also talked about the encouraging new and emerging real-world data that is finding the AstraZeneca vaccine to be more effective than in the clinical trials, and in some cases more effective than Pfizer. The evidence is even more compelling when you look at effectiveness at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death.

She strongly cautioned against comparing efficacy of the three vaccines head-to-head. She explained that the clinical trials were done in different populations, at different times, in different countries, with different variants circulating and different amounts of virus circulating.”

The clinical trial data is only one part of the picture. Real-world data about effectiveness is also emerging in England and Scotland. France and Germany, which had initially not approved AstraZeneca for seniors, are now reversing that decision as new facts emerge.

At the end of the day, the message is clear: Get immunized as soon as you’re eligible with whatever vaccine that is available to you.

What does this mean for physicians registered to offer the vaccine?
Until the national recommendations change, this could mean that medical clinics offering the AstraZeneca vaccine may start with those under 65.

If this is the case, the province will likely add eligibility criteria to prioritize those most at risk for severe outcomes in this group, likely specific underlying medical conditions.

Half a million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Canada today, and these will be sent to provinces soon.

Second Doses to be Delayed

Following a change in BC, Manitoba will begin delaying second doses for all vaccines to as long as four months after the first dose. Emerging evidence is finding this can increase effectiveness while reaching more people with first doses in the short-term. Late today, the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations endorsed this change too.

The change would also allow more supplies to be used now for first doses to reach more people much earlier.

So far, Manitoba has administered 80,171 doses, but this has only reached 50,895 people in total with less than half receiving a second dose. If all of these had been first doses, Manitoba would have reached nearly 60% more people so far.

Eligibility Alert

Vaccine eligibility was expanded today to those aged 89 and older, and for First Nations peoples it is age 69 and older. This change triggered the first vaccine notifications from Man​i​to​baVac​cine​.ca, the vaccine resource site set up by Doctors Manitoba earlier this week.

Eligible individuals should call 18446268222 to book an appointment at a provincial mass immunization clinic, located in Winnipeg, Brandon and Thompson with an additional site opening Monday in Selkirk.

New Public Health Restrictions

The provincial government is moving forward with a series of cautious” restriction changes to continue gradually reopening businesses, services and gatherings.

Because of encouraging trends in public health surveillance, the province is moving forward with nearly all of the changes proposed last week starting this Friday. Originally, they were considering making these changes in two steps over the next six weeks.

The changes will allow households to continue designating two individuals for indoor visits, or instead they can designate another household, effectively bubbling together. Outdoor private gatherings can increase to up to 10 people from five.

More businesses can reopen with public health measures in place. In most cases, capacity is limited to 50%.

You can review the full list of changes in an update from the provincial government. They take effect this Friday at 12:01am.

Hospital Outbreak Notifications

We’ve heard from a number of resident and attending physicians in hospitals concerned about a lack of awareness and notification about outbreaks in the hospitals at which they work. Working together with PARIM, Doctors Manitoba has raised these concerns with Shared Health over the last few months and we want to provide an update.

There are three ways to find out about outbreaks:

  • Wards with active outbreaks should now have prominent signage, which should be visible before entering the unit.
  • Outbreaks are posted on Shared Health’s COVID-19 website for providers
  • Many facilities also send out email alerts when new outbreaks are declared. If you are not receiving these email alerts, check with your site medical staff office. Your email address should be added to the hospital staff email distribution list.

If you have further concerns about finding out about outbreaks in your facility, you can raise them with your medical staff office or contact us at covid19@​doctorsmanitoba.​ca.

Insurance Webinar Tomorrow

Doctors Manitoba and MD Financial Management have collaborated to offer a webinar this Thursday. The webinar will focus 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.

Annual Survey Closes Friday

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.

To view previous updates, click here.