Starting Friday, April 9th the cut-off for eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations will change in Saskatchewan. Effective 8 am, the booking system for Saskatchewan residents will be expanded to all individuals 55 years of age and older. Appointments can be booked online at www.saskatchewan.ca/covid19-vaccine, or by phone at 1-833-SASKVAX. All Saskatchewan residents ages 55+, are also eligible to utilize drive thru and walk-up clinics that are available in communities throughout the province. The SHA reminds people that if they book an appointment online or by phone and then get vaccinated at one of the drive-thru/walk-up clinics to cancel the previously booked appointment so that others can utilize that appointment time.
The Regina COVID-19 vaccine drive thru clinic at Evraz Place on the Regina Exhibition Grounds will begin administering Pfizer/Biontech vaccines starting Friday, April 9. The drive thru will begin vaccinating residents ages 53 and 54 years old only, with possible changes to age ranges as demand allows in the coming days. The clinic is open from 8:30 am to 11 pm daily.
"Shifting vaccines to expand eligible age groups for the Regina drive thru clinic will help in driving down variant of concern transmission in Regina and area," Health Minister Paul Merriman said. "Regular, predictable delivery of all vaccines allows us to make these adjustments and continue to lead the country in putting vaccines in arms, protecting more residents." The CBC reported that officials stated demand for the AstraZeneca vaccine at the drive-thru had decreased in recent days, although Merriman said he did not believe that was due to vaccine hesitancy because he assured, all vaccines being offered in Saskatchewan are safe. Saskatchewan had limited the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged 55 and over on the recommendation of Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), due to reports in other parts of the world of rare blood clots being potentially linked to the vaccine. The AstraZeneca vaccine has seen several questions arise about its safety in different age groups since it was first approved in Canada. Initially the vaccine was approved for all individuals over the age of 18, then an advisory was issued by NACI to only deliver the vaccine to individuals between the ages of 18 and 64. After receiving more “real life” information from the UK, NACI removed that advisory claiming it was safe for those over the age of 65. However, safety concerns continue to dog the vaccine when a rare blood clots occurred in women under the age of 60 within two weeks of receiving the shot. While the phenomenon is quite rare, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which flagged other possible side effects, added that it was of “great importance” that health-care professionals and people receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine were aware of the risks and to watch for possible symptoms that typically occur in the first two weeks after inoculation. “These include, for example, shortness of breath, chest pain, swelling in the leg, persistent abdominal pain, neurological symptoms including severe or persistent headache or blurred vision and skin bruising beyond the site of injection,” Dr. Sabine Straus, chair of EMA’s safety committee, said. The World Health Organization, the U.K.’s medicines regulator and the International Society on Thrombosis and Hemostasis have all said that the benefits of administering the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot far outweigh the risks.
Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab would appear to agree saying in the news conference April 7 and previously any vaccine is much better than no vaccine. "Rapid, mass vaccinations will mean there are different vaccines available at different times, in different parts of the province to support delivery plans," he said Thursday. "All have been approved by Health Canada and all will prevent serious illness and death caused by COVID-19."
For information on booking vaccination appointments, details on drive thru and walk-in clinics throughout the province, and a complete list of extremely clinically vulnerable conditions, visit www.saskatchewan.ca/covid19-vaccine.
Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder