It is estimated that 24,000 Manitobans over the age of 80 have yet to receive a single injection of the COVID-19 vaccine, even though the age criteria for the life-saving vaccine is on the verge of falling below the age of retirement.
As of Thursday, at least 30,950 Manitobans aged 80 or older had been injected with the COVID-19 vaccine. According to demographics from Statistics Canada, that’s about 56%. 100 of this age group.
“The more we can bring the vaccine to people, rather than getting people to the vaccine, the better it will be for these older age groups and, in particular, those who have not yet been vaccinated,” said Prof Michelle Porter, Director of the Center on Aging at the University of Manitoba.
“It’s not because they hesitate. It’s not because they don’t want a vaccine. It’s all these other logistical issues that keep them from happening. ”
Statistics Canada estimates that nearly 42,900 people living in Manitoba are between the ages of 80 and 89. According to this demographic estimate, only 48% of seniors in this age group had received a first dose on Thursday.
People 80 years of age or older became eligible for vaccination on March 10. About 80 percent of Manitobans in their 90s have received an injection.
Porter said there are many reasons why adoption may be slower in older populations. However, she suspects that many of them are waiting for the vaccine to be offered in a familiar setting, such as a doctor’s office or pharmacist.
“A lot of people in that age group, unlike younger ones, used to get the flu shot every year, so I think a lot of them want to do what they normally do, go in the same places they normally go, ”Porter said Thursday.
“So this ignorance of going to a different place, it’s done in a different way, I think that’s definitely a problem. ”
The Free press asked for the number of vaccinations scheduled over the next three weeks for people aged 70 and over, but a provincial spokesperson said those numbers were not ready for public release.
Meetings for the over 70s started on March 19.
“Certainly for some seniors, navigating the website or the call center can be very difficult. For other people, they may have competing priorities, other things going on in life and it can be difficult to get that to the top of the pecking order. to do list. ” – Dr. Joss Reimer, Medical Officer of the Provincial COVID-19 Vaccine Working Group
While provincial public health officials have urged Manitobans to sign up to receive the vaccine as soon as they are eligible, the rollout has been criticized for being inaccessible to some of the older citizens.
Currently, most Manitobans can only get immunized at one of the province’s five “super-sites” or at a pop-up clinic set up in rural and remote communities.
For seniors living independently in rural Manitoba, this means coordinating trips to an urban center with a vaccination clinic – sometimes hundreds of miles away – or waiting for a pop-up clinic to open in their community.
For others, it may mean counting and waiting for family members to be available to escort them to a clinic.
In February, the Free press reported that the daughter of a 95-year-old man from Winnipeg, bedridden and too fragile to leave her home in the village of Osborne, was forced to hire a stretcher service to transport her father to the clinic at the center of RBC conferences.
“The vaccine is free, but the whole process of getting a person to get the vaccine is definitely not free,” Porter said. “We didn’t seem to have everything in place to start for this more difficult group to vaccinate, these older groups. ”
Porter said the risk associated with leaving home to go to a mass vaccination clinic and the sheer size of the facility could be enough to prevent people from getting the vaccine.
“For our older citizens, it’s been a pretty daunting thought for people to have to go to these great sites,” Porter said.
Dr Joss Reimer, medical lead for the provincial COVID-19 vaccine working group, said Manitoba is planning ways to improve access to the vaccine for those who want it but face barriers to getting it. vaccinate.
“Certainly for some seniors, navigating the website or the call center can be very difficult. For other people, they may have competing priorities, other things going on in life and it can be difficult to get that to the top of the pecking order. to-do list, ”Reimer said at a press briefing Wednesday.
“We are working on a variety of mechanisms. ”
Reimer also acknowledged that language barriers, and even concerns about health coverage, can delay some eligible people to make an appointment.
On Wednesday, the doctor said anyone living in Manitoba who qualifies for the vaccine can receive it, regardless of immigration status, residency or if they have a Manitoba health card – and repeated the message in French and Spanish .
“Because there are so many different reasons why people might not sign up right away, we have to make sure that we have many different approaches to trying to address all of these different reasons,” Reimer said. .
She said the province hoped to use part of the upcoming AstraZeneca / Covishield vaccine shipment, which is refrigerator stable, to deliver to people who cannot leave their homes, either in partnership with pharmacies or doctors, or through the home care bias.