The province is announcing funding they say will make an impact on vaccine hesitancy.
The province believes by stepping back and giving communities the power to reach out to their neighbours will make a bigger impact than they can at this point of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
"We are at a critical point in the third wave. There is every reason for optimism. There are more vaccines going into arms and we have people abiding by the health orders and continuing to do both those two things," Premier Brian Pallister says in a Thursday press conference.
One million dollars is being put aside for new programming funding, with community groups having access to up to $20,000 of that grant money. These funds are to be used to help decrease vaccine hesitancy by hosting information sessions, clinics, and other incentivizing programs.
Starting Thursday, community groups, including religious groups, can sign up for information sessions to learn how they can apply for the grant. Once they do so, the province will do "rolling applications" to approve programs as quickly as possible.
Giving examples of how the funds can be used, the province says this can include community sports teams doing equipment raffles, or churches driving people to clinics. Communities can also host vaccination clinics, as announced Wednesday.
"I think, for many more Manitobans, they will be inclined to get a vaccine if they heard it from a community member than they heard it from the government."
First Nation communities led their own rollouts and outreach, which proved to be successful.
The Department of Families will make the final decision on application approvals with the help of government and non-government agencies such as United Way. Pallister says they are hoping to see areas with lower uptake rates take advantage of the program.
"I really, sincerely think our community groups are going to be a big part helping us to et that number up."
The province says they see incentives to attend information sessions have a higher impact compared to incentives after the person completes the activity.
The groups the province is seeing that have the highest rates of hesitancy include those who are unemployed or make less than $40,00 a year, living in Southern Health, parents deciding if their children aged 12-17 should get the vaccine, and those ages 30-44. The province is also seeing more vaccine hesitancy in men compared to women.
Of the 600 people that Prairie Research Associates phoned, the most common concern people had was long-term side effects, the second was concerns over other side effects.
On Wednesday night, for the first time in over a year, there was an audience at a Winnipeg Jets game. Five hundred fully vaccinated healthcare workers attended, and 500 others will attend the next home playoff game. Pallister says this is just the start of the benefits vaccinated Manitobans will see in the short while. Vaccines will not be mandatory in Manitoba, but some privileges will be restricted, for a short time, to those who do not get vaccinated.
"None of us want to see divisions within our society, among our friends and neighbours, based on this issue but we have to have public safety as the first priority."
Pallister says this is more of a benefit for those who are vaccinated, not a limitation on those who are not.
"The first bonus, the most important one, is that you are protecting your health and wellbeing but it may be, as an interim measure to reopen, that we give extra advantage like we did last night at a Jets game, to people who can prove they are vaccinated."
Once overall uptake rises, other places that attract large gatherings, such as movie theatres, will open up. Advertisements featuring Manitobans figures like retired Winnipeg Blue Bomber Obby Khan will be rolling out shortly to encourage people to get vaccinated so they can go to gatherings like sports games.
"The intent is that we start to be able to participate in activities again that we can do it in a safer way once were immunized and so I know that the public health team with Dr. Roussin are working right now on developing the safest recommendations for what types of activities could be opened up as we go forward," Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the COVID-19 vaccine task force says in a Wednesday press conference.
Over 36,000 Manitobans took an Engage MB survey indicating what incentives they wanted to see. The province says incentives such as large events and PCH visits have an impact of 25-35 per cent in people wanting to get the vaccine.
Manitoba has not yet announced what individual vaccine incentives will be but says there will be some next week.