Sask. premier hints at mobile vaccine clinics for worksites, possible changes to priority list

·3 min read
Premier Scott Moe speaks on budget day at the Legislative Building in Regina on Tuesday, April 6, 2021.   (The Canadian Press - image credit)
Premier Scott Moe speaks on budget day at the Legislative Building in Regina on Tuesday, April 6, 2021. (The Canadian Press - image credit)

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says his government is looking at getting COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of front-line workers, but not immediately.

"We understand the need to address some of those front-line workers," Moe said Wednesday during a virtual symposium hosted by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).

Moe said the province is actively assessing whether there are some larger worksites with up to 600 workers where vaccines could be administered.

"Maybe we have some mobile capacity to address some of these folks," Moe said, referring to clinics currently vaccinating people in group homes and shelters.

Moe added later in the day that "if that capacity was able to free up, we could then have that conversation. That point in time is not today. It's not this week. And ultimately we will continue with the age-based criteria that we have."

No 'meat on the bones' of idea

The premier cautioned that there's no "meat on the bones" of that idea and did not offer a specific timeline.

He told those listening during the oil and gas conference that a mobile clinic for worksites "is one thing we may consider in the coming days and weeks" as the province prioritizes "some of our larger group gatherings and setting aside the age limit just to focus some vaccines on those folks in this industry and other industries."

Moe said vaccinating front-line workers would help Saskatchewan's health system "lessen some of the risk" for young people contracting COVID-19 in the workplace and ending up in the hospital.

Moe's comments on Wednesday echoed those he made the day before in which he stated that adding other groups to Saskatchewan's vaccine priority list "will do nothing but slow down any vaccination plan, including ours in Saskatchewan."

"We are going to have a needle offered to everyone in this province by sometime in early June if we continue to receive vaccines from the federal government, which I think we will," Moe said.

Moe's health minister, Paul Merriman, voiced similar concerns during a COVID-19 news conference on Wednesday.

Merriman was asked how, if people in younger age groups are potentially only weeks away from getting their first dose, vaccinating workers in those age groups now would seriously affect the vaccine rollout.

"If I move them up, then I have to move out the 50 year olds [and those aged over that]," Merriman replied.

"That's where we've still seen the highest rate of hospitalization. That's where we've seen the most deaths. So that's why, if we start pulling people in and saying, 'OK, we're going to do just the grocery store workers,' it slows down our mass vaccination process because they're all not working on the same schedule. They can't come in at random times. It will just slow things down on the sequencing."

Merriman added that Saskatchewan's commitment to age-based vaccinations is why the province has recently led all other jurisdictions in quickly vaccinating its population.