Sask. enters Phase 2 of COVID-19 vaccine delivery plan weeks earlier than expected

·3 min read
Nurses administer AstraZeneca-Oxford's COVID-19 vaccine at a drive-thru clinic at REAL in Regina.  (Saskatchewan Health Authority - image credit)
Nurses administer AstraZeneca-Oxford's COVID-19 vaccine at a drive-thru clinic at REAL in Regina. (Saskatchewan Health Authority - image credit)

Saskatchewan has started vaccinating the general population, earlier than originally expected.

As of 12 p.m. CST Thursday, anyone in Saskatchewan 67 or older can book a vaccine online or by phone.

Targeted vaccinations are also now available to clinically extremely vulnerable people, and people in emergency shelters and group homes.

Those booking an appointment will need a Saskatchewan health card and an email or cellphone. Those without an email or cellphone can call 1-833-727-5829.

People who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable will receive a letter with instructions for booking an appointment. That includes organ transplant recipients and people with specific cancers.

The move to vaccinate the general public comes weeks earlier than projected — the government originally expected Phase 2 of the vaccination plan to begin in April at the earliest.

Phase 2 is focused on vaccinating the general population by age, starting with the oldest while opening up the age sequencing to younger populations as more vaccines become available.

Those in Phase 1 — which focused on specific priority groups, such as residents and staff in long-term and personal care homes, and health-care workers in specified fields — will remain eligible for a vaccine, and can book an appointment any time.

According to the provincial government, the following underlying health conditions qualify a person for early vaccination in Phase 2.
According to the provincial government, the following underlying health conditions qualify a person for early vaccination in Phase 2.(CBC)

80% uptake so far, province says

The province says there has been an 80 per cent uptake among those who have had access to immunization so far.

"We've had either people that have been vaccinated or have booked their vaccination," Health Minister Paul Merriman said at a press conference in Regina Thursday. "We want to keep the vaccine lines full. We want to keep the appointments full so we can get through this again as fast as we possibly can."

While health officials are happy with that 80 per cent number, they'd like to see it climb.

"I think we do want to see a high uptake," said Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer.

"As residents of Saskatchewan, we need to continue to challenge the Saskatchewan Health Authority to make them run out of appointments and vaccines and really create that demand."

The government says vaccination clinics will expand across the province in weeks to come.

Province introduces vaccine leave

The Saskatchewan government has amended its occupational health and safety rules to allow for paid time off from work for an employee to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

Effective immediately, workers are entitled to three consecutive hours leave during working hours to get their shot.

Workers are entitled to more than three consecutive hours if the employer determines the circumstances warrant a longer break from work.

A nurse prepares a dose of AstraZeneca-Oxford's COVID-19 vaccine at a drive-thru immunization clinic at REAL in Regina.
A nurse prepares a dose of AstraZeneca-Oxford's COVID-19 vaccine at a drive-thru immunization clinic at REAL in Regina. (Saskatchewan Health Authority)

Additionally, workers do not lose any pay or other benefits while receiving a COVID-19 shot.

"We want to ensure that everyone in the province gets vaccinated," Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Minister Don Morgan said in a statement. "The amendment today ensures workers also have paid time off during the work hours to receive the COVID-19 vaccine."

Drive-thru clinic opens up to more ages

As of Friday, the drive-thru AstraZeneca immunization clinic in Regina is open for who is in their 60s.

The clinic is located on the grounds of the Regina Exhibition Association Ltd., and is open from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Vaccine doses are available on first-come, first-served basis. Wait times at the drive-thru clinic can be found online.

<cite>(CBC News Graphics)</cite>
(CBC News Graphics)

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