All long-term care homes across Saskatchewan have now received the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines for their residents, the province said Tuesday.
And the province's chief medical health officer says most people in the province who want a vaccine could have their first doses by the summer.
The first care home resident in Saskatchewan received a COVID-19 vaccine less than two months ago, and 53 per cent of long-term facilities have now received both their first and second vaccine doses, according to the province.
The province says 91 per cent of long-term care home residents received the vaccine. The remainder were not immunized due to circumstances such as their availability at the time of vaccination, a change in health status or because they declined the vaccine, the province says.
The province says 90 per cent of personal care homes have also now received their first doses, and 43 per cent of those homes have received both their first and second doses.
"Ensuring seniors living in long-term and personal care homes are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is a priority for the government of Saskatchewan," Everett Hindley, the minister responsible for seniors and rural and remote health, said in a statement Tuesday.
"As the supply of vaccine hopefully continues to expand in the coming weeks, we will be able to quickly expand our vaccination efforts for seniors living independently, as well as our other priority groups."
Since the pandemic began a year ago, more than 40 outbreaks have been declared at long-term and personal care homes in province, resulting in over 100 deaths.
In a press conference in Regina Tuesday, Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said that the vast majority of residents could now receive their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine before summer.
Shahab said the province could extend the time between its first and second vaccine shots to four months. That would allow more people to get vaccinated sooner than originally expected.
Some studies show that one dose of vaccine has a high efficacy rate, he said, and British Columbia has already said it will extend the interval between doses to 16 weeks.
"Giving one dose to the vast majority of people by June and then completing the second dose July onwards ... will help us prevent a potentially devastating variant-fuelled third wave," Shahab said.
The province says the decision on whether to delay a second dose for four months will be made by end of the week. Saskatchewan now has access to three approved COVID-19 vaccines, from Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and AstraZeneca-Oxford.
Saskatchewan also reported 134 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, and two more deaths related to the illness. The two people who died, both in the 80 and over age group, were from the north central and Saskatoon zones.
Of the 28,938 total known cases to date in the province, 1,492 are considered active.
The seven-day average of daily new cases in Saskatchewan is 144 — 11.8 new cases per 100,000 population.
The new cases Tuesday are in the following provincial zones:
Far northwest (22).
Far northeast (12).
North central (five).
Central east (eight).
South central (three)
Residence information is pending for one other case.
There are currently 154 people in hospital in the province due to COVID-19, including 20 in intensive care.
The province also reported 194 new recoveries. There have been 27,059 known recoveries in total.
To date, 580,241 COVID-19 tests have been processed in Saskatchewan, 2,175 of which were processed on Monday.
Restrictions may relax
Saskatchewan may see COVID-19 restrictions loosen very soon. Premier Scott Moe said on Tuesday that the province's case numbers continue to stabilize, which he said means the vaccinations are working.
Because of the decreasing numbers and continued immunization, the province is very close to making a decision on relaxing restrictions, Moe said.
"The priority measure that I hear of would be the one on expanding our household visits and our opportunities to see some family members ... and then move to the the broader categories in the weeks after that," he said.
Moe said Shahab wants to make sure the hospitalization numbers remain stable over the next few days. If that happens, the province should have an announcement about household restrictions by early next week, Moe said.
There were 618 COVID-19 vaccine doses administered Monday in Saskatchewan, according to the province.
To date, a total of 80,236 shots have been administered.
The latest doses were administered in the following provincial zones:
Far northwest (27).
Far north central (11)
Far northeast (11)
North central (44).
Central east (88).
Provincial data has been updated to include an additional 329 doses administered in the central east (120) and southeast (209) zones on Feb.26 and 27.
CBC Saskatchewan wants to hear how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted you. Share your story with our online questionnaire.