After Manitoba bypassed Ottawa to purchase its own doses of COVID-19, Saskatchewan is weighing similar options.
"It's not off the table for Saskatchewan," Premier Scott Moe said during a Thursday press conference.
This week, Manitoba announced it made a deal with Calgary-based biotechnology company Providence Therapeutics to buy two million doses of a Canadian-made COVID-19 vaccine that remains in development.
Manitoba became the first province to procure its own vaccine supplies, which up until this point has been solely a responsibility of the federal government.
Moe said he spoke with Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney a week before the announcement to discuss the company.
"The Providence purchase...we continue to look at it, understanding we've already made significant investments in the VIDO-InterVac facility in Saskatoon as they work their way through to having a vaccine that will be available for Canadians and others abroad as well," Moe said.
Since the pandemic began, the provincial government has put more than $4 million into VIDO-InterVac, which is at the University of Saskatchewan.
Both Canadian-made vaccines have yet to be approved. VIDO's COVID-19 vaccine, which was developed in the Saskatoon lab, has begun clinical trials. Moe said the earliest the Providence vaccine will arrive is by the end of the year, while VIDO-InterVac's vaccine could come early next year.
Saskatchewan and the federal government have both committed to vaccinating the general population before then.
WATCH | Pallister says vaccine deal will be 'insurance' for immunizations:
Province remains short on vaccines, but more are on the way
Federal supplies of COVID-19 vaccines continue to run short, resulting in Saskatchewan altering its vaccine distribution plan.
On Tuesday, the province released details of the next phase of its vaccination rollout plan. Health-care workers are not prioritized, as the government focused on the elderly.
"There may be other vaccines that may come later in the year, and that's going to be our way out," the province's chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, said Thursday. "But right now the vaccines we're hoping to receive in March, April and May, we really have to emphasize people at the highest risk of death."
Saskatchewan is expecting 180,000 doses to arrive in the province by the end of March, with another 600,000 to arrive by the end of June, Moe said.
"This means that by the middle of March we're anticipating to be up to close to 4,000 vaccinations per day, and by the middle of April, we will hopefully be up to 7,000 vaccinations a day," Moe said.
Seniors aged 60 and older would be the first group eligible under Phase 2 of the plan.
NDP accuses Sask. government of politicizing vaccines
During a virtual news conference Thursday, Sask. NDP Leader Ryan Meili said the government is politicizing its vaccine distribution plan by removing doctors from its vaccine distribution priority list.
The province has since stated it is revising the list to include more categories of health-care workers.
WATCH | Sask. NDP accuses government of politicizing vaccine distribution
"There's a whole lot more people who are 50 to 59, or 60 to 69 than there are health-care workers. And so he's counting the votes," Meili said.
"What he should be doing is acting in the most evidence-based way to keep people safe and keep our healthcare system properly functioning. That's his job."
Moe wants remark retracted
"They're wrong. That simply isn't it," Moe said Thursday.
"People in their 60s have poor outcomes if they should contact COVID."
Of the province's 350 deaths, 87 per cent of them were people aged 60 or older.
"Fatalities we have are largely in the sector that is 60 and older," Moe said. "That is a statement that I quite frankly wouldn't have made and I think they should retract it."