Epidemiologist Souradet Shaw said he was pleased to see Manitoba’s reopening strategy involves targets for people receiving both their first and second doses of the vaccine. But he believed he should also have focused on metrics such as the number of cases, ICU admissions and test positivity rates.
“While I certainly appreciate the province having put together a plan, I think the plan lacks important details,” said Shaw, assistant professor at the University of Manitoba and Canada Research Chair in Human Sciences. programs and global public health.
“And in public health, unfortunately, the devil is always in the details. “
At a press conference Thursday, Premier Brian Pallister and Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s Chief Public Health Officer, outlined the province’s path forward to get out of COVID-19 restrictions based on vaccination rates during the summer months.
This plan is tied to vacations and immunization goals, with some restrictions to be relaxed if more than 70 percent of Manitobans 12 years and older receive their first dose (and 25 percent receive their second) before Christmas Day. Canada.
Since Thursday, approximately 68 percent of Manitobans 12 and older received their first dose, while about 14.2 percent received the second.
Higher vaccine targets were also unveiled for the August long weekend (75 and 50%) and Labor Day September 6 (80 and 75%). If vaccine targets are reached sooner, things will reopen sooner, Pallister said.
Shaw said the announcement would have been a good time for the province to share more of its pandemic modeling data, which could be used to support the goals officials announced and indicate when to deviate from that plan if the going. go wrong.
“I think it’s one thing to hope for the best. But at the same time, we also have to plan for the worst, ”he said.
The update comes a few days after Manitoba signaled a significant leap in COVID-19 cases linked to variant B.1617.2, also known as the delta variant, which was first identified in India.
Early signs suggest that while a single hit of COVID-19 offers fairly robust protection against other strains of the coronavirus that cause COVID-19, that first dose may only be about 33% effective against the delta variant.
Focus on vulnerable communities
Shaw said he would have liked to see plans for how the province will work to mitigate the spread in schools and how it will reach marginalized populations who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and may not have access equal to vaccines.
“We know COVID is a disease of inequity, just like vaccines,” he said. “We know this virus will find these pockets of unvaccinated people and hit them hard. “
This is a concern shared by Dr. Renate Singh, anesthesiologist at the Winnipeg Health Sciences Center and Grace Hospital.
“We still have a lot of vulnerable people in our community [who] need to access at least one dose, ”Singh said.
“I would really like to see what that number looks like by Canada Day before I develop any ambitious reopening plans. “
Singh said she felt the optimism she saw in the province’s plan was premature, given current rates of infection and vaccination in Manitoba and the emergence of the delta variant.
“We’re assuming we’re going to meet these vaccination goals and in the midst of it all, we now have a variant emerging,” she said.
“The impact this will have on us is still a big unknown. “
Virologist Jason Kindrachuk said Manitoba is still in crisis and needs to find a way to get second doses out as soon as possible – especially for priority populations and those living in COVID-19 hot spots.
Returning to communities with low overall absorption from the first dose will also be crucial, he said.
“Some communities are unfortunately disproportionately affected by this virus,” said Kindrachuk, assistant professor and Canada Research Chair in Emerging Viruses at the University of Manitoba.
“Distribute vaccines to these communities equitably, [making] making sure they’re protected is one of the first things we need to take into account. “
Continuing vaccination in Manitoba will likely put the province in a very different position over the next few months, Kindrachuk said.
And he said it will be important for Manitoba’s strategy to remain cautious and flexible as more data on the delta variant is released.