WINNIPEG – Manitobans most at risk of being infected with monkeypox can book immunization appointments online starting Monday.
After health experts called on the province to act proactively and offer preventive doses of the vaccine it has had since June instead of waiting for the virus to appear here, the progressive conservative government issued a press release on Friday saying it would meet the eligibility criteria. will expand and offer in three Winnipeg locations.
“It shouldn’t have taken this long,” said NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara, noting that the government only acted when it was pressed.
“I strongly believe that the government dissemination of information is a direct result of pressure being placed on them by the public and public health expertise,” Asagwara said. The health critic called Friday’s press release “the bare minimum” and questioned why prominent healthcare leaders such as Secretary of Health Audrey Gordon or chief of public health Dr. Brent Roussin, didn’t present the news and didn’t answer questions.
On Friday, Gordon declined to answer questions about the rollout — how many vaccine doses Manitoba has and why preventive injections weren’t made available sooner. At an unrelated event, she said she would not comment until a press release was issued later in the day.
The announcement said Manitoba was working with the federal government to obtain additional doses of the Imvamune vaccine, but did not specify that is why it will offer it preventively and not just to people exposed to infections.
The county said those eligible for the vaccine are most at risk for infection — gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, who also meet at least one other requirement:
• Have been diagnosed with chlamydia, gonorrhea and/or syphilis in the past two months.
• Have had two or more sexual partners in the past 21 days.
• Have visited or plan to visit places of sexual contact (such as bathhouses or sex clubs).
• Have had or plan to have anonymous sex in the past 21 days.
• Do or plan to perform sex work as an employee or customer.
From Monday, appointments can be booked online or by phone for people who meet the eligibility criteria. The shots are offered at Klinic Community Health (167 Sherbrook St.), Access Winnipeg West (280 Booth Dr.), and Our Own Health Center (230 Osborne St.).
Anyone can become infected with monkeypox, which has been labeled a global health threat by the World Health Organization, but so far infections have mainly been reported in men who have sex with men, Friday’s press release said. To date, there have been no confirmed cases in the province.
The province has not taken advantage of that “window of opportunity” until cases have been reported in Manitoba to roll out the vaccine and inform the public, Asagwara said.
“After the pandemic and everything we have learned as a result of COVID, it is inexcusable that the government continues to react badly and deliberately exceed important opportunities to be proactive,” said Asagwara, a nurse.
» Winnipeg free press
Manitoba liberal leader Dougald Lamont asked why it has taken so long to make the vaccine available to high-risk residents.
“The number of cases doubles every two weeks, it is highly contagious … and there is a vaccine that can prevent it,” said Lamont, who wrote an open letter to the health minister a week ago urging the government to urged to do more to prepare for the arrival of the virus.
Several provinces have reported cases, including Manitoba’s neighbors, Ontario and Saskatchewan.
“We live in a level 4 (National Microbiology Laboratory) city with some of the best public health and infectious disease experts in the world, and they have been ignored,” Lamont said.
» Winnipeg free press