As Sask. moves away from mass vaccination sites, possibility of 4th wave looms

·3 min read
A vaccine mandate is possible, but one Manitoba doctor says governments might not want to go that route.  (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
A vaccine mandate is possible, but one Manitoba doctor says governments might not want to go that route. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

About 26 per cent of Saskatchewan's eligible population remains completely unvaccinated as the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) moves toward ending drive-thru vaccinations and booked appointments on Aug. 8.

The province will instead administer vaccines in places like walk-in clinics in public venues at retail stores, provincial parks and summer events including powwows. Pharmacies will also continue to offer appointments for the vaccine.

Jennifer Cushon, SHA vaccine section chief in Saskatoon, said demand has dipped for the drive-thrus and other mass vaccination spots.

"We really want to get out into community and focus more on outreach clinics, so we can target people where they're living, where they're working, and where they're playing," she said.

"We're trying to make vaccination as convenient and as easy as possible for people."

One Manitoba physician said hesitancy is definitely playing a role in the rollout.

Dr. Anand Kumar, professor of medical microbiology at the University of Manitoba and an intensive care physician, said vaccine misinformation is still common online and that the communities that stoke that fear play off each other.

Kumar said it's hard to know what will work to reducy hesitancy, but that things like only allowing vaccinated people into places of entertainment could be something to try.

"You allow people who are vaccinated into dining places and into entertainment facilities, just basically try to reward those who get vaccinated, plus it makes good epidemiological sense from the point of view of disease transmission," he said.

Vaccine mandates exist in schools and for people looking to immigrate to Canada, and it's possible to do that here, but Kumar said he isn't so sure people want to.

"I think people would prefer not to use a hammer," he said.

Listen | Doctor says 4th wave possible in Saskatchewan if vaccination numbers continue to stall

Kumar said it's possible a fourth wave might be a deciding factor for some people, as cases and deaths would mostly affect unvaccinated people.

Saskatchewan's reopening came relatively quickly compared to some other places in the country. Kumar said that could affect how the potential next wave affects the province. He recommends that even vaccinated people wear masks indoors.

Unvaccinated will bear brunt of 4th wave: minister

Saskatchewan's Minister of Health Paul Merriman continued to push vaccination as the province's way forward, as public health restrictions are non-existent.

"They're predicting a fourth wave, that wave is going to be in the unvaccinated population. That's where it's going to lie," he said.

Merriman said the province is working with the federal government right now to determine supply for the coming months, as demand is lower right now.

But one thing on the horizon is the expected decision on vaccinating children aged 5 to 11.

"That decision should be coming in a few weeks, so we have to have enough for that," he said.

People are still getting shots every day, Merriman said, but if Saskatchewan ends up with too much supply, the ministry is prepared to move doses around to other provinces.

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