Province urged to follow updated COVID-19 restrictions as vaccinations begin

Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 vaccines are being administered after Tuesday’s first shots were given to health care professionals in Regina.

Priority populations in Saskatchewan will be receiving the vaccine over the coming weeks starting with a pilot project for 1,950 healthcare workers in ICUs, emergency and COVID units at Regina’s General and Pasqua hospitals, along with staff at testing and assessment centres. Pilot recipients will take their second dose 21 days after the first one.

Dr. Tania Diener, Regina’s medical health officer who also serves as the provincial lead for COVID-19 vaccines, stated on Wednesday that the general public will likely start receiving shots by April 2021 once the province has completed inoculations for priority groups.

Diener mentioned how it will be a long process to vaccinate the entire population. However, as residents are getting immunized, she said it’s important for people to follow public health orders and work to bring the COVID-19 case numbers down.

“This is the time for all of us to come together and fight this virus with the other tools we have at the moment,” she insisted. “The masking, social distancing, keeping your bubbles small and staying within your household.”

The first update restriction to come into effect will be on December 17 when all private indoor gatherings in dwellings will be limited to immediate households only. Single individuals will be permitted to meet with one household of less than five.

Single persons with minor children are permitted to follow the guideline for single individuals and co-parenting arrangements are permitted to continue.

Public and private outdoor gatherings are allowed for up to 10 people, however individuals in attendance will be asked to follow public health regulations including physical distancing of at least two metres between households.

On December 19, casinos and bingo halls will need to close, while personal care services must reduce customer occupancy by 50 per cent.

The updated restrictions for December 25 will see both essential and non-essential retail services reduce their capacity to 50 per cent. Large big box retailers must reduce to 25 per cent of capacity.

Motivating residents to receive COVID-19 vaccine

When asked what the government and Saskatchewan Health Authority will do in terms of messaging to encourage people to get the vaccine once it’s their turn, Diener said they will have to focus on why people have mistrust and what the myths might be regarding COVID-19 vaccines.

Speaking to reporters during a SHA media conference, Diener said she understands there are people who do not trust the vaccine since it was rapidly developed and approved. However she said it’s important for the public to know that a large amount of resources was put into the development of these shots worldwide.

“No safety protocols were bypassed. All the adequate testing in terms of trials going through different phases and reaching certain influence were achieved,” explained Diener. “The same safety and effectiveness standards for any other vaccine was adhered to before the approval was provided.”

Diener added that the amount of effort put into developing the vaccine was tremendous, which is why it was ready to go less than a year after it began development.

The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is the first to arrive in Saskatchewan after receiving approval from Health Canada. According to Pfizer, testing of their vaccine proved to be 95 per cent effective against COVID-19 after recipients were given both doses.

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