Saskatchewan to receive 180K coronavirus vaccines: health minister

Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman says the COVID-19 pandemic won’t end until the province has a safe and effective vaccine.

There are currently 2,066 active coronavirus cases with the overall total for the province growing to 5,651 since the first case was reported in March, according to health authorities.

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“It is pretty clear now that this pandemic will only end when we have a widespread distribution of a safe and effective vaccine,” Merriman said at a press conference on Thursday.

“There has been some good news about vaccine in the recent days, but of course, production and distribution of millions of doses that Canada needs is going to take some time. The federal government has secured an initial batch of six million doses to be delivered in the first quarter of 2021, four million from Pfizer and two million from Moderna.

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“Of those, Saskatchewan will receive approximately 180,000.”

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Coronavirus: Saskatchewan contact tracing becoming increasingly challenging with higher close contacts per infected person, health minister says

Merriman said the ministry and the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) are developing a plan to deliver vaccine as swiftly and effectively as possible.

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“The vaccine will be administrated on a priority basis. I expect that we will be vaccinating seniors and front-line health-care workers first. I look forward to the day when we have most of our province vaccinated, but that’s going to take some time,” Merriman said.

“Until then, we need to follow all public health measures and guidelines that will help keep us safe and those around us safe … these practices that are the bridge that will get us safely from now until the day we have a widespread vaccine, but we all need to build that bridge together.

“The goal is still to flatten the curve, to make sure that the health-care system is at a place where it’s manageable and we can continue to accept patients and we don’t get overwhelmed.”

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On Thursday, public health measures were tightened to include province-wide mask use for all indoor public spaces and visitation was restricted to compassionate visits only in Saskatchewan’s long-term care homes.

The province’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, said the vaccine pipeline is becoming more clear.

“We already know that there may be vaccine available, a limited amount available starting January, February. But then, the vaccine pipeline will continue throughout next year, throughout 2021, and we don’t know the details of how much vaccine will be available beyond February, but it will be coming in smaller amounts,” Shahab said.

“Obviously, we hope that there will be a national approach of prioritization about who should get the vaccine first. Obviously, we’re looking at emerging data on how effective the vaccine is. Early trials show that it’s highly effective.

“People at highest risk are first in line to get the vaccine and people who provide services to people who are unwell, including front-line health-care workers, would also be in front of the line.”

To date, there have been 32 COVID-19-related deaths in Saskatchewan.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

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