Sask. bets on vaccine supply uptick, eyes offering doses to younger age groups, more workers in coming days

·3 min read
Premier Scott Moe speaks at Saskatchewan's COVID-19 news conference on April 20, 2021. (CBC - image credit)
Premier Scott Moe speaks at Saskatchewan's COVID-19 news conference on April 20, 2021. (CBC - image credit)

Citing an expected increase in COVID-19 vaccine shipments, the Saskatchewan government is planning to offer doses to residents aged 44 and up through booked appointments beginning this Thursday.

Then, by mid-next week, people aged 40 and up will become eligible and more front-line workers will be offered doses too, Premier Scott Moe said Tuesday.

Moe said the province's plan is pegged on vaccine shipments picking up in early May, pointing in particular to a boost in Pfizer-BioNTech shipments touted earlier this week by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In the meantime, Moe said, "we do have a difficult 10 days ahead of us."

Saskatchewan is expected to receive about 31,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week — a figure officials have previously said provides about three days' worth of supply.

Meanwhile, the province and other parts of the country have faced several Moderna vaccine delays in recent weeks.

"We're hoping for a Moderna schedule that will include increases as well," Moe said. "We'd also like to see more AstraZeneca arrive."

Supply crunch delays 9,000 appointments

The current supply crunch has forced the province to reschedule around 9,000 appointments and temporarily close its Saskatoon and Regina drive-thrus, Moe said.

It's hoped the increase in vaccine shipments in early May will allow Saskatchewan to ramp up its delivery of vaccines through pharmacies — an effort set to begin on April 26 — and potentially allow the province to reopen those shuttered drive-thrus, Moe said.

Saskatchewan has been disappointed before when federal shipments of COVID-19 vaccines have fallen short of initial estimates. Moe and his ministers have frequently blamed the Trudeau government and its shipment schedules for any slowing in the pace of vaccinations in Saskatchewan, which has led all provinces in inoculations for much of 2021.

Moe's announcement Tuesday about opening up vaccines to younger people and more front-line workers came despite those earlier frustrations.

Once people aged 40 to 43 are able to book vaccine appointments next week, "We're then going to prioritize all remaining police officers and firefighters, front-line health care workers, corrections officers, border crossing officers, public health inspectors as well as our teachers and educators and others that are working in schools," Moe said.

Eligible workers will need proof of employment before going to a clinic, according to a release.

Anyone with those vocations currently eligible for a vaccine should immediately book an appointment, Moe added.

Moe's government has been under pressure in recent weeks to add more groups of front-line workers, including teachers, to Saskatchewan's vaccine priority list.

The premier looked ahead to a time when all adults aged 18 and over will be able to get a shot.

"We'll all have equal priority at that point," he said, adding that the province's previously-stated hope of offering first doses to all people aged 18 and over by mid-May remains "a very ambitious target."