'Blockbuster' rise in supply, rapid 2nd round of COVID-19 vaccination touted by Sask. officials

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Scott Livingstone, the CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said the province is scheduled to receive more than 500,000 additional Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses before the end of June.  (Kayle Neis/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Scott Livingstone, the CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said the province is scheduled to receive more than 500,000 additional Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses before the end of June. (Kayle Neis/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Saskatchewan health officials say they expect COVID-19 vaccine supplies to reach "blockbuster" levels in the coming weeks.

They're also touting a much faster rollout of second doses — once that gets started — compared to the first round of dosing in the province.

"The second doses will happen in a much [more] compressed time frame compared to the first," Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, said during a COVID-19 news conference on Tuesday.

Scott Livingstone, the CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said the province is scheduled to receive more than 500,000 additional Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses before the end of June.

He said that vaccine appointments may have to be rebooked if supply shortfalls occur, as they have in the past.

But Livingstone said that absent such hiccups, the expected supply of "mainstay" Pfizer vaccines is "enough doses to get us over the finish line without any getting any other doses."

As of Tuesday, of the 752,204 Saskatchewan residents age 30 and over and eligible to be vaccinated, only 40,984 — or five per cent — had received their second shot, according to provincial data.

16-week gap between doses could shorten

In mid-March, Saskatchewan joined other provinces in extending the interval between first and second vaccine shots to 16 weeks.

But on Tuesday, Livingstone said not everybody will have to wait that long for a second dose.

"We will escalate second doses very quickly [in] ensuring that we have people with their second dose well within that 16-week period of time," he said. "Not everyone will wait 16 weeks as we get through that first-dose [program] near the end of May."

Scott Livingstone, the CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, speaks remotely during a COVID-19 news conference on Tuesday.
Scott Livingstone, the CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, speaks remotely during a COVID-19 news conference on Tuesday.(CBC)

Some groups of seniors, such as those living in retirement homes, have yet to receive their second doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said assisted living facilities are considered private businesses and their residents will be vaccinated based on age along with the general public.

"We are not booking second vaccinations for the general public at this time. All residents will be offered their second dose within the maximum 16-week interval," the spokesperson said.

As of Tuesday, only 25 per cent of seniors aged 80 and over had received their second dose of vaccine.