Sask sociology professor says province must come together to meet vaccine targets

·3 min read
Cindy Hanson, a concerned citizen and a professor at the University of Regina, says it's critical for the province of Saskatchewan to be transparent and honest on how its vaccine rollout is going.  (Submitted by Cindy Hanson - image credit)
Cindy Hanson, a concerned citizen and a professor at the University of Regina, says it's critical for the province of Saskatchewan to be transparent and honest on how its vaccine rollout is going. (Submitted by Cindy Hanson - image credit)

The contrast between the Saskatchewan government's past messaging on the vaccine rollout and the current reality is "a bit scary," according to one professor of sociology.

Since COVID-19 vaccines have started to roll-out in Saskatchewan, officials have said the province's approach is one of the best in Canada, with Premier Scott Moe saying the plan was leading the nation and something people should be proud of.

Since those remarks in early April, Saskatchewan has fallen behind its provincial neighbours and is now approaching the back of the pack when it comes to the number of people who have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

As of Thursday, according to the COVID-19 Canada Open Data Working Group, Saskatchewan had the second lowest percentage among provinces of people that had received its first dose at 57.5 per cent, behind only Prince Edward Island's 57.25 per cent. When taking the territories into consideration, Saskatchewan's position is still third lowest.

Cindy Hanson said this is problematic. Speaking as a concerned citizen, the professor of sociology and social studies at the University of Regina said the province needs to be transparent when it comes to how the vaccine rollout is going.

"Saskatchewan is not even meeting the national average," she said from the waiting room at Station 20 West, shortly after getting her second dose. "It's actually a little bit scary, because If we listen to the rhetoric coming out from the premier, we would think we're doing much better than we are."

Hanson is not an expert in vaccinations, but from a social perspective, she said the province needs to hone in on how vaccines protect the community, as opposed to the individual. She said people may be more willing to line up for a shot if they understand their role in protecting the community as a whole.

"Let's grab the bull by the horns and change these kinds of demographics," she said.

Health Minister Paul Merriman provides an update on Saskatchewan's vaccine roll out during a provincial briefing on June 8, 2021. Merriman stressed that the province still plans to meet its goal of 70 per cent vaccination.
Health Minister Paul Merriman provides an update on Saskatchewan's vaccine roll out during a provincial briefing on June 8, 2021. Merriman stressed that the province still plans to meet its goal of 70 per cent vaccination. (CBC News)

CBC News requested an interview with the Saskatchewan Health Authority or the Ministry of Health to discuss Hanson's concerns Thursday, but the request was declined. Instead, government pointed to a COVID-19 update provided earlier this week where Health Minister Paul Merriman addressed Saskatchewan's vaccination rates, saying the rollout is working as vaccine numbers rise and cases drop.

Asked by reporters about Saskatchewan's current placement among provinces, Merriman said uptake has been "extremely good" and that work to improve vaccine uptake is ongoing.

"I don't think it's an issue of vaccine hesitancy, I just think it's more summer time," Merriman said.

"People are saying, 'Oh. We'll get it done next week, or the week after.' We need you to get it in, get it done immediately so we can start moving forward in our roll out plan to reopen Saskatchewan."

Merriman said the province has no plans to offer incentives to get people vaccinated.

Hanson said that while the province must be transparent about the rollout overall, there is merit to the its choice to avoid vaccine incentives.

"If our caring for each other is based on material artifacts, or that we need some kind of reward for everything we do, we're going to be in very big trouble," she said.

"What we need to do is change values in society so we're all looking after each other, because that will ultimately be the sustainable way of doing this."