Moe says adding front-line workers to Sask. priority list could jeopardize June vaccination target

·3 min read
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe takes questions from the media at the legislative assembly on Tuesday, April 6, 2021. (CTV - image credit)
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe takes questions from the media at the legislative assembly on Tuesday, April 6, 2021. (CTV - image credit)

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says tweaking the COVID-19 vaccine priority list to include front-line workers vulnerable to the spread of variants could jeopardize the province's already-stated goal of ensuring as many willing members of the general public as possible are offered their first dose of vaccine by the end of June.

The premier was asked Tuesday about adding essential workers such as emergency room doctors to the top of the priority list.

"Right now, the challenge we have with changing the priority moving forward is it's going to slow down our ability to deliver the high volume of vaccines that we've been able to thus far," Moe replied.

"If you look at the next number of weeks and our plan to have everyone in this province having access to that vaccine by June, that means if we slow that down we may not have everyone in this province to have access to a vaccine until a number of weeks later."

Moe said continuing to use age as the main criterion for vaccinating the general public remains "the most efficient and quickest way for everyone, including all of our front-line workers," to get vaccinated.

"At this point in time, what we are focusing on is how can we turn around the comparatively larger numbers of vaccines that we're receiving today and make them available to Saskatchewan people as quickly as possible?"

Health Minister Paul Merriman said the COVID-19 attack rate remains highest among seniors.

"If we start looking at micro-targeting certain groups and specific groups, it slows down the overall vaccination process for the whole province," he said.

Gov't 'extremely concerned' with number of COVID patients

Moe's government is being asked by some groups and health professionals to consider extending early vaccine access to various front-facing groups, including teachers, hospital workers, police officers and young workers.

"There are people going to work every day at grocery stores or truck drivers or even people in health care who are being asked to go to work everyday and put themselves at a really high risk, but yet they may not be vaccinated for two months or three months or four months from now," said Dr. Hassan Masri, an intensive care specialist in Saskatoon.

Dr. Kevin Wasko, lead physician with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), agreed the province should consider tweaking its priority list to include front-line workers.

The calls for change come as intensive care COVID-19 hospitalizations in Saskatchewan remain at or near all-time highs. As of Tuesday, 44 patients were in ICU, including 30 people in the Regina area.

The Regina area accounts for 803 — or 84 per cent — of the variant of concern cases with confirmed lineage reported in Saskatchewan.

"We're extremely concerned about this," Merriman said of the number of COVID patients in hospital. "This is the most that we've seen in Regina, certainly. And across the province, there is some some issues with the variants. That's why we've had tighter restrictions."

Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman spoke to media Tuesday in Regina.
Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman spoke to media Tuesday in Regina.(CTV)

Merriman said that, for the time being, the province can still send patients to Saskatoon if there's no room left in Regina ICUs.

"But we have to protect that provincial capacity because if things start overflowing in Saskatoon, then we have a different issue that we need to look at," he said.