When the COVID-19 vaccine comes, Saskatchewan will be ready, says health minister

·4 min read

Regina– When the COVID-19 vaccine comes, Saskatchewan will be ready. That’s according to Minister of Health Paul Merriman, who started the Dec. 2 COVID-19 update talking about upcoming vaccines, the first of which, made by Pfizer, received emergency approval in the United Kingdom on that very day.

“Near the start of this pandemic, I remember Premier Moe saying, ‘This is not a sprint. It’s a marathon,’” Merriman said.

“That is still true today. And we still have a long way to go in this marathon. Even marathons have a finish line. And now we know where that finish line is.

“The finish line is when we have delivered a safe, effective vaccine to a significant number of Saskatchewan residents. That's where life can truly start getting back to normal.

“Saskatchewan Health and the SHA (Saskatchewan Health Authority) have already done a lot of work, getting ready to deliver this vaccine. They will have a more detailed presentation on that plan sometime next week. For now, I want everybody to know: We in Saskatchewan are ready to go.

“As soon as the federal government is able to start delivering the vaccine to us, we will be ready to deliver that to Saskatchewan people quickly and safely.

“This is a huge undertaking involving thousands of healthcare workers, and other support staff, transportation, storage, and many other logistical issues. But let me assure you, we will be ready.

Healthcare workers, elderly first

Merriman continued, “Premier Moe and I have directed all necessary resources be directed to this effort. Based on the advice of public health officials, we will be prioritizing who will receive it first. There'll be more detail on this presentation next week. But it's no surprise that we expect healthcare workers, and the residents in our long-term care and personal care homes to receive the first vaccines.

“We do not yet have an exact timeline on when we will be receiving these vaccines. The federal government is now saying the first deliveries will be early in the new year. Saskatchewan’s per capita share that we should be receiving in the first quarter of 2021 is about 180,000 doses, enough to vaccinate 90,000 people. This is just based on the deliveries from Pfizer and Moderna, who have applied for their vaccine approvals. In the last few days two more companies, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, have also applied to have their vaccines approved. This could result in more vaccines being delivered, even quicker. When that occurs, we will be ready to start receiving the shipments. And we will also be ready to go.

“This is how we get back to normal in Saskatchewan. This is how our health system will get back to normal. This is how our economy will get back to normal. This is how our lives will get back to normal. It is quite literally the shot in the arm that Saskatchewan needs. And be ready to deliver that shot in the arm, as soon as the federal government starts getting us that vaccine. Until then, we all have to keep following the public orders and guidelines to protect ourselves and others. Keep physical distancing. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Limit your close contacts and stay home, if you're not feeling well. And follow the other good practices that we know to reduce the spread of COVID-19. It's how we keep ourselves, and those around us safe,” Merriman said.

New Democratic Party Leader Ryan Meili told reporters, “I was concerned that the minister didn't understand his responsibility yesterday. This government should be talking about vaccine readiness and encouraging people to learn about the vaccine and get ready to take it, ready to protect each other.

“They failed when it came to masks, getting people ready and promoting that early. They helped create this anti-mask pushback that we see in the in the province, with their mixed messages. They need to be ready and be promoting the COVID-19 vaccine, because it is essential, if we're going to get past this. And we're going to need more than the vaccine. It's not enough to wait to the vaccine and have a terrible December and January, and who knows when we actually get it. We need to act now. But we also need to act now, to get people ready for when the vaccine is here.”

Brian Zinchuk, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Estevan Mercury