The provincial government calls it “an early holiday gift” as phase one of the province’s vaccine delivery plan is set to begin next week with another shipment of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. The shipment could arrive as early as December 21 in Saskatoon.
“It was welcome news when we learned that the first shipment would arrive before the holidays,” stated Health Minister Paul Merriman in government release on Thursday. “I consider this the best gift to see more health care workers in our province being immunized, and look forward to delivering it to more of the people at highest risk.”
Phase one will see 1,950 health care workers in Saskatoon ICUs, emergency and COVID-19 units, testing and assessment centres receive their first dose of the vaccine at Merlis Belcher Place at the University of Saskatchewan. Their second dose will be given three to four weeks later.
The pilot delivery in Regina will also expand to include more health care professionals. The pilot, which also includes 1,950 health care workers, will extend to key frontline staff in the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and anesthetists. Additional priority groups are being considered depending on uptake.
“Phase one of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine Delivery Plan focuses on immunizing priority populations who are at a higher risk of exposure to the virus as well as those more at risk of serious illness,” reads a statement from the government. “This includes health care workers, staff and residents of long-term care facilities, those in the 80 plus range, residents over 50 in northern and remote areas and as the supply of vaccine allows, those 70 to 79 years of age.”
According to the government, 250 people have received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine since Tuesday with 11 on December 15 and 239 on December 16. There are 301 people booked to receive the vaccine Thursday.
“These additional groups have been identified given they are also at higher-risk of contracting COVID-19, and because of their work with at-risk patients,” said SHA CEO Scott Livingstone. “Of course, our supplies are limited, so we will look to continue providing additional doses to these groups as more vaccine is received.”
Lessons learned from the pilot in terms of logistics for transporting, storing and distributing the vaccine will be absorbed by officials.
Health Canada’s approval of the Moderna vaccine is expected soon with the hope of receiving a shipment in Saskatchewan later in December. The Moderna vaccine can be stored in regular temperature freezers which will make it easier to transport to and use in smaller, rural centres.