This afternoon, February 18th, in Regina, Premier Moe together with Health Minister Paul Merriman and representatives from the Saskatchewan Health Authority held a press conference at the newly set-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the International Trade Centre. The ITC at Evraz Place has been the site of the drive thru COVID testing unit in Regina since September 8, 2020 and while it will continue to operate once the vaccination clinics get into full swing, it will move to a new area. The Premier’s party toured the mass vaccination clinic at the facility along with the drive thru vaccination clinic and the mobile clinics. The mobile clinics are fully self-contained units that can take everything needed to carry out COVID-19 vaccinations to wherever they are needed for example long-term care facilities where the residents are unable to be transported to sedentary clinics. Mobile units would also travel to residents of rural communities that do not have ready access to a mass clinic, assisted living facilities, First Nations, urban reserves and correctional centres. SHA representatives reported that the Regina mass vaccination clinic and the drive thru will be ready for operation as of March 15, with the first vaccines being the Phase 1 recipients. Individuals in the 70 years or age and over group will be contacted by the SHA and are reportedly not required to call and book appointments.
When asked what the purpose was behind the press conference today, Premier Moe responded that it was intended to show that the vaccine delivery apparatus is ready as soon as the vaccines arrive. Secondly, it was to encourage and ask all Saskatchewan residents to get vaccinated as this is the way we will begin returning to normal activities.
“Saskatchewan's vaccine delivery plan has a goal of vaccinating as many people as possible, as quickly as possible,” Moe said. “I am confident that Saskatchewan is well prepared to rapidly deliver immunizations when we start to receive adequate supplies of vaccine, and Regina's mass immunization clinic is a great example of how we are ready to deliver.”
The Saskatchewan Health Authority will use mass immunization clinics, like the one at Evraz Place, as its primary mode for delivering vaccines in major communities. Appointments can be made online or over the phone, and recipients should arrive five minutes before their scheduled time. When an immunization station is in use a red sign will be displayed. Available stations will have a green sign on display. After individuals receive their shot, they get a card that describes the vaccine received and when a follow up shot is required. Each station is expected to administer six to seven vaccines hourly. As with any vaccination there will be a waiting period after receiving the vaccine in which individuals will be monitored for any adverse reactions and as a result people can expect to spend approximately half an hour at the clinic. Drive-thru vaccine clinics will cater to those with last minute availability and will be first come first served. These sites will have longer wait times and each site will have a different capacity so wait times will vary.
The Premier also spoke to the people of the province who may have left Saskatchewan over the past week for the school winter break and Family Day. Although travel has been strongly not recommended, people have travelled and that increases the risk that they may have come in contact with any of the new variants of the virus. It is strongly recommended for those who did travel outside of the province within the past week to get tested immediately upon returning to Saskatchewan, self-monitor for seven days and then get retested. The newest variants are all showing a much higher transmission rate and some are exhibiting mutations that may make it possible for them to avoid the antibodies that are being initiated by the vaccines. The more opportunity the virus is given to move from one host to another increases the likelihood of further mutations.
In addition to the clinics established by the Saskatchewan Health Authority during the vaccination campaign, Public Health offices, physician’s offices, and pharmacies will also be able to set up and offer vaccinations to all who are eligible for the vaccine at that time. Registration is required at the time of the vaccination and through this registration process, clinic staff will be able to identify those who are and are not eligible to receive the vaccine.
Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder