End of Vaccine Shortages in Sight

·5 min read

Unofficial sources have told the Wakaw Recorder that more COVID-19 vaccine is heading for Wakaw in March. While dates and amounts are unknown, the news is sure to make individuals in our area feel like the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel is beginning to shine a bit brighter. Again unofficially, the vaccine that will be arriving in March is first and foremost to finish administering the second vaccine doses to those who received the first shot in January, if there is additional vaccine other individuals included in Phase 1 may be contacted to receive the vaccine. In early March, the SHA’s online appointment booking system and toll-free telephone line are planned to be operational and as soon as they are any resident 70 years of age or older who have not yet received the vaccine and wishes to, should be registering. Dr. Shahab stated quite clearly last week, “Once eligible, always eligible.” No one in the province will miss the chance to get the vaccine, and those who were eligible in Phase 1 will still be able to get the vaccine once Phase 2 begins.

On Tuesday February 9, Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingstone and Health Minister Paul Merriman announced that in the Phase 2 rollout vaccination clinics will be established in 181 communities around the province and five of those will be in our area. Mass immunization clinics are planned for Wakaw, Birch Hills, Cudworth, Middle Lake, and Rosthern. These SHA established clinics will be in addition to participating pharmacies and physician’s offices around the province who are usually involved in administering the annual flu vaccinations. Minister Merriman said this will be an “all hands on deck approach” to the vaccination rollout.

On Friday February 12th, Prime Minister Trudeau and Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand announced that Canada will be receiving more Pfizer vaccine in the months of April, May and June than previously expected. Originally Canada was earmarked to receive six million doses by the end of March and another eight million by the end of June. Friday’s announcement bumps the second quarter amount to 10.8 million and this increase equates to more than just the change that would have been seen when the manufacturer changed the reported number of doses in each vial of vaccine from five to six. To ensure that healthcare providers can extract the full six doses from each vial, the government has ordered 64 million of a specialized ‘low-dead space’ syringe. The distribution of these is in progress and each province is expected to have enough for the next “several’ weeks and more of the syringes are on their way.

Trudeau and Anand also reported that Pfizer deliveries previously slotted for the last three months of 2021, are now going to be received this summer meaning that 6.2 million more doses will be deployed between July and August than were previously expected.

The slow down in the manufacturing of the Pfizer product was a result of the reconfiguring and renovations needed at the facility to enable it to produce the tremendous quantities of vaccine that is so highly sought after. Pfizer had committed to supplying four million shots in these first three months of 2021 and with 403,000 this week and 475,000 next, followed by 444,000 for each of the following two weeks, and 400,000+ each week thereafter into the foreseeable future, the pharmaceutical giant is on track to meet their commitment, while Moderna is questionable.

Current shipments from Moderna leave it far from its commitment of two million doses by the end of March and with shipments only arriving once every three weeks, the company may be hard pressed to meet their target. The shipment destined to arrive next week will be more than 80,000 doses short of what was originally expected meaning that by the end of February Moderna will have only shipped 700,000 doses of its contracted 2 million. The word from Moderna is that two shipments will arrive in March but there has been no indication of the timing of those shipments nor the size. However, that did not stop the federal government from purchasing an additional four million shots which are expected to arrive over the summer. Canada is expecting a total of 23 million doses combined from Pfizer and Moderna by the end of June with a cumulative total of 84 million doses by the end of September. If that total is reached, Canada will have enough vaccine for 42 million people to receive both shots, and Canada has a population of roughly 38 million. “That’s part of the reason why we can say with such confidence that anyone who wants a vaccine in Canada can get one by the end of September,” the Prime Minister said. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin is cautiously optimistic, “Despite temporary delays, efforts are going as expected thanks to the collaboration from all levels of government. We expect to share information with provinces as soon as possible.”

With all this new information about increased numbers of vaccines set to make its way into the province the SHA is gearing up to be ready to carry out a vaccination schedule to match. Premier Moe stated on Thursday February 11th that in the last half of March, Saskatchewan expects to receive 50% of the first quarter vaccine allocation and, he affirmed, that is when the province will be able to achieve it’s 3,000 doses/day vaccination goal. If the vaccines are available in April as they are currently promised, the Premier said the province will be ready to double the number of daily vaccinations.

Most everyone is longing for the return to a pre-pandemic way of life. Hopefully, once the vaccination program is in full swing, we will all have a clearer picture of when those days will return.

Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder