Saskatchewan residents 85-plus to book vaccine appointments over phone or online

·2 min read

REGINA — Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman says seniors 85 years old and older will be able to book COVID-19 vaccinations on the phone or online starting Thursday.

Merriman says bookings can be made by someone else on a senior's behalf.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority says the new network will allow for 6,000 bookings a day, but only for first shots.

Merriman says he expects demand for vaccine to exceed supply and is asking anyone younger than 85 not to try to book an appointment to avoid overwhelming the website or phone lines.

"Please don't test the system," he said during a briefing Wednesday.

Residents will be provided with both a paper and electronic record of their vaccination.

Merriman said the government isn't looking at making shots mandatory and hasn't discussed whether certificates could be needed to attend events such as football games or concerts in the future.

The health authority said it will phase out the current approach of calling residents to get a shot in favour of self-booking.

About 94,000 shots have been given to date and the province has said every adult will be able to get a first shot by June.

Authority CEO Scott Livingstone said there are likely to be a few wrinkles with self-bookings at first.

Vaccine uptake will be tracked and the government will launch an advertising campaign to encourage people to get their shot, he added.

So far, there have been fewer COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities, which Livingstone attributes to residents and staff getting vaccinated.

"The race is on," he said.

People 70 and older are currently eligible for a shot, but officials say some who are between the ages of 60 to 64 and living in Regina will soon have access to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Saskatchewan recently lifted its ban on household visits and plans to expand capacity for worship services next week. Premier Scott Moe has said the moves are partly because there is more vaccine available to protect older residents.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 10, 2021

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press