Health officials are sharing their next steps in caring for seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As soon as late this week Manitobans aged 95 and older will be able to start getting their COVID-19 vaccines, the first group of the General Population on the province's second stage of vaccination plans.

At a St. Boniface care home, residents have received their first of two COVID-19 doses, but there are new cases of the virus. The province is reporting that the overall atmosphere around the outbreak is different, as their residents are having much milder symptoms than usual.

"It seems that the residents are expiring less severe symptoms than they had seen in previous outbreaks," Dr. Joss Riemer says, co-lead of the Immunization Taskforce. "Those facilities are telling us this looks different, this feels different than before the vaccine entered the facilities. "

Riemer says they have seen a dramatic drop in outbreaks in care homes but is to draw a direct link between the vaccine and the change.

"It has been very encouraging every day to see the number of outbreaks decreasing."

The province is considering, along with other provinces across the country, moving to give first doses before securing second doses, something health officials have been wary of in the past. Reimer says this is due to a shortage of approved vaccines.

"The data is starting to come in, and we have seen some studies from other countries that show some reassuring numbers," Reimer says. "While we have not made any decisions today about moving away from prioritizing the second dose, we plan to continue to watch this data very carefully."

This move would mean there is less effectiveness with solo vaccines, but a larger population coverage.

The Essential Worker category of vaccination priority groups is still being discussed. 

Dr. Marcia Anderson says the First Nation population will start vaccinating people in their first priority group, those 65 years old and older, at the same time.

ublic health lead, First Nation Pandemic Response Coordination TeamAnderson is the public health lead of the First Nation Pandemic Response Coordination Team. (Screenshot: Government of Manitoba/YouTube)

People will be able to self-identify as First Nations or be able to provide a status number. This is because many First Nations people could have previously lost their status due to being a woman married to a non-status man, being adopted during the 60s Scoop, or other barriers. Metis people are not First Nations.

There will be an online vaccination hub for these communities.

Anderson expects the number of First Nations vaccinations to be higher than represented on the dashboard as some First Nations people are not counted in the Indian Status Registry.