Uncertainty surrounds start date of Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 mass vaccination plan

As Saskatchewan continues with Phase 1 of its COVID-19 vaccination plan, uncertainty remains on when mass immunization of the general public will start.

The rollout of Phase 2 for the general public is tentatively scheduled to start in April, but the province has cautioned it will depend on vaccine supplies.

“We are ready to go. We are ready to ramp up very quickly in Saskatchewan,” Premier Scott Moe said Tuesday during a briefing.

“Vaccines are working — we just need more of them.”

Read more: Saskatchewan rolls out plan for Phase 2 of COVID-19 vaccinations

According to the federal government, Saskatchewan is forecast to receive 15,210 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine during the week of Feb. 22 and 53,820 doses during the first four weeks of March. The province is also scheduled to receive 4,500 Moderna vaccines the week of Feb. 22.

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Federal officials have said forecasts for the province can change on short notice based on availability and delivery, but Moe said Ottawa has assured him that deliveries will be ramping up significantly in the coming weeks.

“I think better times are ahead. I think we are going to see the numbers of vaccines coming into Saskatchewan increase in the days ahead,” Moe said.

“It’s going to make for some busy times.”

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Once Phase 2 rolls out, vaccinations in Saskatchewan will begin by age increments, starting with those in their 60s and scaling down from there.

The province is also targeting people who have intellectual difficulties and are living in group homes, people in emergency shelters, and people with underlying health conditions who are clinically extremely vulnerable.

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The Saskatchewan Health Authority will operate 226 vaccine clinics (141 mass immunization clinics, 24 drive-thru clinics and 61 mobile clinics) in 180 communities.

Officials has also reached an agreement with the Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan for pharmacists to administer the vaccine, much like the yearly flu shot.

Phase 1, which started on Dec. 22, focuses on immunizing high-risk members of the public including health-care workers in intensive care units, emergency departments and COVID-19 wards, testing staff, elderly residents in care homes, individuals aged 70 and older, and residents over the age of 50 in remote northern communities.

The government has faced a backlash from the medical community, including the Saskatchewan Medical Association, who said health workers ought to be prioritized under guidelines set out by the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations.

Earlier this week, the province announced changes in that a number of additional health workers, including those directly involved in the delivery of the vaccine during Phase 2, will receive their vaccinations in the first phase.

Read more: Phase 1 of Saskatchewan’s coronavirus vaccine plan adds more health-care workers

As of Feb. 16, 49,841 total doses had been administered in the province, and of those, 13,596 people have received both doses.

Moe said one in five residents and staff at long-term care homes have been fully immunized.

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The province estimates roughly 190,000 people will be immunized during Phase 1, but Moe cautioned that not all of them will be vaccinated by the end of March.

“By the end of March, we’re expecting about 190,000 doses, so that will get us close to about halfway through our Phase 1 delivery,” he said, adding he hopes to be up to 5,000 doses or more per day in April.

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