Sask. nursing students call to be vaccinated against COVID-19

·3 min read
Sask. nursing students call to be vaccinated against COVID-19
The Saskatchewan government is prioritizing vaccinations by age.  (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
The Saskatchewan government is prioritizing vaccinations by age. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

A group of Saskatchewan nursing students say they are concerned they won't be vaccinated soon enough.

More than 100 students have signed a petition asking the provincial government to reconsider the second phase of its ongoing vaccine rollout.

As students, they are not included in the policy of vaccinating health-care workers and with many of the students under the age of 30 they will be among the last age group to receive the vaccine.

A further complication is that many nursing students will be deployed to the hospitals in Regina and Saskatoon.

Those two hospitals are managing the bulk of the province's most serious COVID-19 cases.

Ben Charyna is a third-year nursing student in Saskatoon and is one of the students who signed the petition.

He told CBC's The Morning Edition that there are concerns that nursing students will be put on clinical rotations despite not being vaccinated.

"Depending on the area that you're practicing in there are positive patients on some of the wards. So there's risks along with that and along with being in close quarters with the staff who are working with those patients directly," Charyna said.

With the cases of COVID-19 variants of concern continuing to climb in Saskatchewan that concern is even more apparent, the nursing student said.

The variants are more virulent and are having a greater effect on younger populations, which puts the students at risk, Charyna said.

"We don't view that as a risk that should be taken. And so vaccinating us, knowing that we're going into those environments to protect the patients and the other health care workers and to protect our capacity to maintain our health care system, we think that should be a priority."

The province did not initially sound like it was open to tweaking its COVID-19 vaccine priority list.

In a post-budget news conference on Tuesday, Premier Scott Moe said moving essential workers such as emergency room doctors to the top of the priority list would disrupt Saskatchewan's plan to see as many willing members of the public as possible get offered their first vaccine dose by the end of June.

On Wednesday, Moe signalled he may be open to a change in priorities.

"Recommendations are coming forward to start looking at front-line workers and prioritizing front-line workers in our vaccination plan," Moe said during a keynote speech at the Scotiabank CAPP Energy Symposium.

The premier continued to stress that a change in priority "would do nothing but" slow down the province in reaching its June goal, but said the province needs to address the concerns of front-line workers.

"We haven't put any meat on the bones with respect to that plan and that is one thing we may consider in the coming days and weeks," Moe said.

The province will continue to use age as its main criterion for its vaccine rollout.

The province's vaccine rollout website describes age as "the number one risk factor for severe outcomes, hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19."