Phase one of Saskatchewan’s vaccine rollout plan began December 22, with the hopes of administering 10,725 doses per week—every individual needs two doses. With this plan, they’re aiming to administer an estimated 202,052 doses of the Pfizer vaccination in the first quarter of 2021 (March 31).
Since phase one began, Saskatchewan has administered over 35,000 doses of the vaccine—over 30,000 first doses and over 4,500 second doses—in over 40 days. At the current vaccination rate in Saskatchewan, just under 6,000 doses are being administered per week.
Saskatchewan and Canada are falling short of their vaccination goals due to delays on receiving the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced plans to begin producing a vaccine domestically as early as this summer.
As part of Saskatchewan’s phase one vaccine rollout, immunization is targeted towards priority populations. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) issued guidance to provinces on the distribution of the vaccine and Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab modified those guidelines for the provinces demographics and logistical requirements.
Saskatchewan’s phase one framework for immunization prioritization:
Long-term care and personal care home residents and staff (total number estimate- 30,584).
Health care workers in emergency departments, intensive care units, Covid-19 wards and Covid testing and assessment staff (total number estimate- 10,000-15,000).
Residents 70 years and older in all communities (total number estimate- 131,119).
Residents over the age of 50 living in remote/northern Saskatchewan (total number estimate- 8,921).
The immunization prioritization in the province remains focused on the demographics outlined by Dr. Shahab in phase one despite the current vaccination shortage right now.
“The priority groups for phase one vaccination includes long-term and personal care home residents and staff, health care workers—including those in emergency rooms, ICU, Covid units, and testing assessment centres—residents over 70 living in the community, and residents over 50 in northern and remote communities,” a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health told the World-Spectator. “We will continue with efforts to vaccinate phase one priority groups, as supply becomes available.”
There are disparities in doses administered by area in Saskatchewan. The Ministry of Health says that’s because they’re going to more crucial areas first that have effective distribution methods.
“Locations are prioritized based on a number of factors, one being Covid-19 risk and outbreak rate,” they said. “The other being vaccine distribution logistics from the vaccine hub to ensure there is no vaccine wastage.”
For now, it’s difficult for the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health to look too far into the future when it comes to vaccinating the general population because of the shortages with the Pfizer vaccine.
“We are reviewing vaccine expansion plans. Recent news of drastic reductions in delivery of Pfizer vaccine to Saskatchewan and resulting scarcity of supply will be factored in to these plans,” said the spokesperson. “Vaccinations will be able to expand when more vaccine becomes available.”
As for where people will be able to receive vaccinations once they are available, pharmacies are being looked at as an option for rural communities.
“The role of pharmacists in the vaccination plan is currently under consideration,” they said.
With Saskatchewan’s phase two projected to begin in April, it will continue to prioritize the demographics Dr. Shahab has outlined, as well as start administering doses to the general population.
Distribution will occur throughout the province with a focus on people being able to access the vaccine where they live or work—the province is planning to have it administered by physicians, nurse practitioners, and pharmacists with additional vaccine providers being considered dependent on vaccine availability.
With two months until April, the shortages of Pfizer and lack of communication on when more vaccine shipments will be coming to Saskatchewan has the provincial government beginning to worry about the status of the vaccine rollout plan.
On Monday, February 1, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Health Paul Merriman spoke in front of the House of Commons Standing Committee on the topic of Covid-19 vaccine supply shortages and Ottawa being more transparent with the situation.
“Simply put, we need more vaccines and we need more reliable information about when we’re receiving those vaccines,” Merriman said. “The flow of information is almost as important as the flow of vaccines. While our provincial vaccine administration plan continues to be very effective, we are now virtually at a standstill with no vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan in over a week, and limited quantities now expected in the next few weeks.
“Saskatchewan is a large province with many remote communities. So we need reliable information to plan appointments, transportation, refrigeration, and the deployment of our healthcare workers.
“If we don’t get everything that we’re promised right now, we will be in a challenging situation to get a second dose to the people that have their first dose in the timeframe that is recommended.”
Rob Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The World-Spectator