Sask. gearing up to distribute vaccines for kids aged 5-11
Health Canada has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for ages 5 to 11
Vaccines for children aged five to 11 will be made available as soon as they arrive in Saskatchewan, says the province's chief medical officer.
"As soon as we know the details, shipment timelines … the deployment will be as quickly as is manageable, like as soon as the vaccines come," said Dr. Saqib Shahab.
Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine for children aged five to 11 on Friday.
Derek Miller, the emergency operations lead for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said plans are in place to distribute the vaccines through different partners.
"As soon as the vaccine arrives in the province, and we go through the process of distributing and so on and readying it at the clinics, then we'll be prepared to open up access and start that campaign," Miller said.
Saskatchewan expects to receive 112,000 pediatric vaccine doses.
Officials say 190 pediatric vaccine clinics will open in more than 100 communities in the province to inoculate children.
Vaccines will also be available at the clinics for any parents who remain unvaccinated. A full listing of clinic locations and times will be available at www.saskatchewan.ca/COVID19-Vaccine.
The consent of parents will be required for any child vaccinations.
Provincial Health Minister Paul Merriman says once approval comes the province will "hit the ground running."
"We're ready to go with some of the schools as our partners," Merriman said. "But we're trying to limit it to outside school hours, so we make sure that the parents are there when any of these young ones are getting vaccinated."
Opposition NDP Leader Ryan Meili said Merriman needs to be more forceful in encouraging parents to make sure their kids get vaccinated.
"It was awkward today [in question period] to hear the minister unable to answer a pretty straight question about should people get vaccinated? Should kids get vaccinated?," Meili said. "He very quickly went to that space, 'Well, yes, if their parents choose, if they choose.'
"I'd really like to hear a much stronger message, which is absolutely yes."
Shahab said parents should be reassured that this vaccine is just like any other childhood vaccine.
"I think many of our pediatric colleagues and other colleagues have already done town hall kind of sessions open to parents and others that have been excellent," Shahab said, adding it is still important to answer any questions parents might still have when it comes to the vaccine.
"Staff, whether it's pharmacies or public health staff or other staff who are vaccinating, they are experts at making children and families feel safe with whatever the location is for vaccine administration."
While parents cannot yet book appointments, they can call 1-833-SASK-VAX (1-833-727-5829) toll-free to book appointments once the vaccine has arrived.
With files from Guy Quenneville