Jennifer Gallays and her husband woke before dawn on Monday to make sure they got their vaccine booster shots at the mass walk-in clinic in Saskatoon.
"We basically brushed our teeth, put on layers, made some coffee, filled the thermoses and then got our winter gear on."
There were a few other vehicles idling in the lot at Prairieland Park when they arrived around 6:15 a.m. About an hour later, people left their vehicles and formed a line. Gallays said many paced back and forth to stay warm as they patiently waited.
"We sort of felt like we were around like-minded people who also wanted to just do the right thing as quickly as possible," she said.
"We don't want to see our health-care workers go through what they had to with the fourth wave…. I just feel for them and think we should all be doing as much as we can."
Gallays was one of hundreds of people across the province taking advantage of the expanded vaccine booster program. Last week, Premier Scott Moe announced the program would be expanded because of the impending Omicron coronavirus variant spread.
Booster doses are now available to everyone 18 and older. The province also reduced the wait time between second and third doses from five months to three. Saskatoon clinical microbiologist Dr. Joseph Blondeau said Monday that people who have had breakthrough COVID (an infection after being fully vaccinated) are eligible for a booster shot as soon as they are recovered and out of isolation.
Previously, boosters were only available to people aged 50 and older, all adults in northern and First Nations communities and people with specific medical conditions.
The change meant Gallays could get the third dose before the holidays and before she, a teacher, returns to the classroom in the new year. Gallays said it was a relief.
"It gives you peace of mind because if you're watching the data at all with what's going on with Omicron, if it takes hold in your community that line goes straight up."
By early afternoon Monday, the government reported more than 18,000 vaccine booster appointments booked through its online system.
Confusion at the old Costco
Meanwhile in Regina there was major confusion among vaccine seekers on Monday morning who attempted to get their booster at the old Costco. Some people were turned away and told the site wasn't for walk-ins.
People used social media to question what was going on. On Monday, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) website said the clinic would open at 9 a.m. from Dec. 17 to 23.The SHA told CBC the clinic was actually only open for walk-ins at 5 p.m., and that this was also noted on the site.
Soon after, the SHA posted a separate update on social media saying there would be no walk-in availability at the clinic this week. All information detailing times for walk-ins was removed and no explanation was provided. The SHA apologized on social media for the confusion.
People were in Regina were directed to the Victoria Square Mall, where hundreds of gathered to get the shot.
Early evidence suggests Omicron is more adept at infecting people who've already had COVID-19 or multiple doses of leading vaccines. Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab has recommended everyone get fully vaccinated, and get a booster dose once they can.