New Sask. COVID-19 vaccination clinics open up as others fill appointments

This week the Saskatchewan Health Authority opened up its vaccine priority list to 70-year-olds in more than 50 communities.

The province's chief medical health officer says uptake has been high

COVID-19 vaccine clinics have been set up in several communities across the Saskatchewan in an effort to immunize the province's most vulnerable populations first. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Seniors in their 70s can now get the COVID-19 vaccination in Saskatchewan. 

This week the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) opened up its vaccine priority list to septuagenarians in several communities.

The province's chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said the uptake of the vaccine in 70-year-olds is high, as it should be. 

"I would expect 100 per cent uptake in the most vulnerable long-term care residents, primary care home residents, and for health-care workers and primary care and long term care staff, because that's a second layer of protection," Shahab said during Thursday's provincial update on COVID-19.

Vaccine clinics quickly filling up

This week, COVID-19 clinics were set up in 11 communities: Wakaw, Cudworth, Rosthern, Big River, Canwood, Shellbrook, Birch Hills, Debden, Blaine Lake, Candle Lake and Christopher Lake. 

The vaccinations are available by appointment only. Appointments for the clinics were quickly booked. New appointments will be made available once new vaccines arrive. 

Other clinics are scheduled Saturday in Wakaw, Cudworth and Rosthern.

Derek Miller, executive director of infrastructure management for the SHA said during a Thursday press conference, vaccines will eventually rollout in other communities like Saskatoon, Regina, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw. But an exact date is unknown. 

"Speed does matter, especially among our vulnerable populations, as it saves lives," SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said. "This is why we're expanding our program as vaccines become available to us provincially."

However, as the province vaccinates its elderly, more vaccines will be needed.

"Currently the planned federal allocation for Phase 1 will leave us approximately 50 per cent short of immunizing our high priority populations," Livingstone said. 

"Supplies are limited so we need patience from those who are not among the priority populations."

Saskatchewan is scheduled to receive nearly 200,000 vaccinations by the end of March.

However, on Friday the federal government said Pfizer was temporarily reducing vaccine deliveries to Canada. The manufacturer said it is confident it can catch up by the end of March.

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Health minister urging approval of more vaccines

Following the news of Pfizer's slow down, Premier Scott Moe issued a statement calling it "very concerning."

"Saskatchewan has been able to increase our pace of vaccinations in recent days, but our planning is based on the federal government providing a reliable weekly supply of vaccines," Moe said.

He said Health Minister Paul Merriman raised the issue of "quickly reviewing and approving additional vaccine candidates including AstraZeneca" during a call with federal and provincial ministers, Friday morning. 

AstraZeneca has not yet been approved by Health Canada. 

On Thursday, Livinstone said the general population will be immunized by the end of summer. 

"Our plan is anybody in this province who wants a vaccine will get a vaccine in their arms by September. That's what we're planning, and we will be prepared to do that," Livingstone said. 

The Ministry of Health says Friday's announcement from the federal government will impact how quickly the province is able to immunized people with ithe Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

However, "It will not change our Phase 1 sequencing focus on those most at risk:  long term care and personal care home residents and staff and healthcare staff most at risk for COVID-19," the Ministry of Health said. 

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