The Manitoba government is investing nearly $14 million to support community-focused and one-on-one outreach to improve access to COVID-19 immunization and boost the number of first and second doses.
“As we move forward, our immunization strategy is shifting toward work at the community level to increase vaccination rates in the province to help protect our schools, our places of worship, our businesses and our health-care system,” said Premier Kelvin Goertzen. “This financial support will help health-care workers across Manitoba engage in more targeted local outreach with the confidence and tools they need to make a difference in our immunization rates, one person and one community at a time.”
“For the thousands of people who are still not immunized, and unprotected against the risks of COVID-19, we recognize the importance of hearing about the benefits of the vaccine from their trusted doctor or pharmacist close to home,” said Health and Seniors Care Minister Audrey Gordon. “It’s also critical that we provide tools to the regional health authorities and health-care providers who are having ongoing conversations with people about the vaccine. This will support our ongoing efforts to improve vaccine access and uptake in communities and neighbourhoods across the province.”
The initiative will allow physician offices in Manitoba to develop a roster of their patients who are not fully immunized and support outreach to have those patients come in and have a conversation about their questions and concerns, with the goal of supporting fully informed decisions about immunization. Each office will be able to develop its own strategies to connect with patients, building on what would be most effective based on its knowledge of these individuals. Funding will be used to cover administrative costs and physician fees connected to the outreach, co-ordination and visits.
“Family physicians have strong relationships with their patients because they focus on comprehensive, continuous, team-based care and work closely with community and social services,” said Lisa Goss, executive director, Manitoba College of Family Physicians. “The college is pleased to participate along with other professionals and to lead initiatives that help Manitobans get vaccinated.”
The province is also supporting the development of a training and support program for physicians and pharmacists focused on best practices to reach out to individuals who have not yet been immunized. This training is being developed by Doctors Manitoba, the Manitoba College of Family Physicians and the University of Manitoba, and will help to support health-care providers in communities where additional support is needed to improve immunization rates. This approach has been piloted in British Columbia and is supported by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“Doctors are here to listen to concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine and share up-to-date information so that every individual can make a fully informed decision about vaccination,” said Dr. Kristjan Thompson, president, Doctors Manitoba. “Talk to your doctor or visit our website to find a physician near you to answer your questions and, if you are ready, give you the vaccine too.”
“Throughout the pandemic, patients have continued to foster trusted and lasting relationships with their pharmacists,” said Ashley Hart, president, Pharmacists Manitoba. “Pharmacists are an integral part of a community-based collaborative health strategy and we look forward to being involved in efforts to reduce barriers and save lives through this grassroots initiative to increase vaccination uptake.”
These investments will support physicians and pharmacists to offer additional immunization clinics in communities with lower vaccine uptake rates, based on epidemiological evidence and other local priorities. The goal is to reach as many eligible Manitobans as possible, the minister noted, adding that up to 100 smaller clinics a week operated by health authorities will also be held across the province in the weeks ahead to help meet this goal.
The province will also make available new training opportunities for health-care professionals and paraprofessionals in regional health authorities, built around motivational interviewing techniques. This approach helps these health-care providers better understand, address and respond to questions or concerns from individuals who remain unvaccinated with the goal of changing their attitudes and decisions about immunization.
For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine campaign in Manitoba, visit protectmb.ca.
Doctors Manitoba is inviting individuals to visit manitobavaccine.ca to find a physician offering vaccine information, as well as answers from doctors to common vaccine questions.