Saskatchewan's COVID-19 vaccine clinics have lists of "alternate" recipients in the event extra doses are available after as many of the original priority targets as possible are immunized, according to the province's chief medical health officer.
Dr. Saqib Shahab spoke about the little-known practice earlier this week during a news conference.
He said it has helped keep Saskatchewan from wasting the limited Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna vaccines offered so far.
"Out of the 80,000 vaccines given away, our wastage rate has been very low," Shahab said, adding that the vaccines need to be used quickly once they are thawed.
Under Phase 1 of Saskatchewan's COVID-19 vaccine program, residents and staff at long-term and personal care homes are among the few priority groups designated for early vaccination, ahead of the general public.
Each care home in the province has to provide health officials with a list of residents and staff who have agreed to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
There's also an alternate list.
"If, for some reason, the people who are [originally] booked were not able to get the vaccine, all vaccine providers have an alternate list that they can call, and they have been calling sometimes at short notice," Shahab said.
Eden Care CEO received early vaccine
That's what happened to Alan Stephen in early January.
Stephen is the CEO of Eden Care Communities, which operates care homes in Regina, Saskatoon and Moose Jaw.
He said direct-care providers — residents, nurses, continuing care aides, recreation workers, housekeeping staff and food service providers — at Regina Lutheran Home were given first dibs on doses on Jan. 13.
The home was given 90 minutes notice of the clinic and not all staff on the priority list were able to make it to the home, Stephen said. Some elders and workers were not vaccinated because they were COVID-19 positive and, at that time, not eligible for the vaccine, he added.
"We vaccinated the priority list and then once they realized there was additional shots in the vials, they started calling people on the other list so we wouldn't waste [doses]," he said.
"Because of the time frames involved, you had [as little as] 15 minutes to come in. So they called and I said, yeah, I could come in."
Regina Lutheran Home was in the middle of a COVID-19 outbreak at the time, as were other Eden Care facilities in Regina. Workers from other locations couldn't go to Regina Lutheran Home to get vaccinated due to "cohorting," the Saskatchewan Health Authority practice of limiting health workers to one home during the pandemic, Stephen said.
Red Cross workers helping out at the home were also vaccinated, he said.
The alternate list included administrators, human resource staffers, finance people and executives like Stephen, he said, adding that those people have helped with tasks such as screening and overseeing outside visits.
"I don't think there are many of our team in home offices that did not work at one of the [care] homes during the pandemic. I don't mean just once. Over weekends, at nights. We all sorta chipped in to help out," Stephen said.
Stephen said he normally visits Eden Care homes quite often, although not as much during the pandemic. He had been inside a home within a few days before the Jan. 13 clinic, he said.
"It's leadership by wandering," he said.
Stephen said he's aware of public sensitives around people who do not provide direct care receiving vaccines early.
"I'm pretty sure I was near the end of [the list]," he said.
Premier Scott Moe announced Tuesday that 91 per cent of long-term care home residents across the provide had received their first dose.
The remaining nine per cent didn't receive vaccines either because they refused them, weren't available to take them or had "a change in health status."
The ministry did not provide a breakdown of those categories. The health authority said it does not track its vaccine data to that level of detail.