Saskatchewan

Some Sask. health-care workers declining COVID-19 vaccine, health authority says

"Just like everybody else and the members of the public, health-care workers have their own opinion," SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said.

Health authority CEO says only a small percentage of workers have opted out

The SHA says it's comfortable with the vaccine uptake among health-care workers in Regina and Saskatoon, where some of the first Saskatchewan-bound doses were sent. (Michael Bell/Canadian Press)

Some Saskatchewan health-care workers being offered a COVID-19 vaccine are turning it down, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) says.

"We certainly have a small percentage of staff that has declined vaccination, but it's nowhere near 50 per cent," SHA CEO Scott Livingstone said Wednesday when asked about a rumoured high percentage of vaccine opt-outs. 

Health-care workers are among the first people in the province being offered vaccines. Select workers in Regina and Saskatoon were among the first to receive their shots, followed by some in Prince Albert.

Acceptance rates are high in Saskatoon and Regina, Livingstone said.

"We were really comfortable with what we're seeing," he said.

Vaccination key to reducing infections: health ministry

In an emailed statement, the province's Ministry of Health said that if a vaccine is declined, it will go to the next eligible person "to get as many residents vaccinated as quickly as we can."

"We would encourage Saskatchewan residents who are eligible and offered the opportunity to receive the vaccine to do so," the ministry stated. 

"Vaccination is a key step in reducing COVID-19 infections and helping to protect Saskatchewan residents."

The ministry has compiled information about vaccines here

'Health-care workers have their own opinions'

Asked why some workers are not taking the vaccine, Livingstone replied, "Just like everybody else and the members of the public, health-care workers have their own opinions around vaccination and immunization and a small percentage don't support it.

"I think there is some nervousness about being the first with the first vaccine," Livingsone said. 

"But that doesn't mean that's a 'no' outright. That just means they're not ready to step up and be that first person." 

Union says better vaccine education needed

The SHA employs about 43,000 people. The Service Employees International Union West represents about a quarter of those workers.

Some members are "vaccine hesitant," union president Barbara Cape said. 

"I don't think that they're anti-vaxxers by any means," she said of that group. "And I think we can do a hell of a lot better on educating not only health-care workers, but the general population, on how [the vaccine] has been developed, how it works, and why it's important for all of us to take it.

"But I don't think by any stretch of the imagination should we mandate this."

Cape said she's sure there are some anti-vaxxers in the union. 

"That's fine for them and their choices," she said. "But let's be clear that the science is pretty damn solid around the importance of immunization and vaccines."

A recent Angus Reid poll suggests 19 per cent of respondents in Saskatchewan are likely to say they won't take the COVID-19 vaccine. Saskatchewan was close behind Albertans, who are the least likely in Canada to roll up their sleeves for a vaccine

Vaccine rollout update

In addition to health-care workers, elderly residents in care homes, seniors over 80 and residents in northern remote communities were also given priority for vaccination in the first phase of Saskatchewan's rollout. 

Health care workers providing direct care to COVID-19 patients were among the very first people offered the vaccine. 

As of Tuesday, nearly 10,000 vaccines had been administered in the province. On Tuesday alone, 903 doses were given out in Regina (219), Saskatoon (81), Prince Albert (210) and the far northwest (88), far north central (64), far northeast (122) and northeast (119) zones. 

Livingstone said some earlier-than-expected shipments of vaccines, alongside a more consistent flow, mean the vaccine can now be sent to more communities.

Premier Scott Moe said Tuesday that Moderna vaccines will be sent to the southeast and east-central areas of the province this week, including the communities of Kelvington, Wadena, Canora, Kamsack and Weyburn. 

In addition to health-care workers, elderly residents in care homes, seniors over 80 and residents in northern remote communities were also given priority for vaccination in the first phase of Saskatchewan's rollout.

(CBC News Graphics)

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About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Saskatoon

Story tips? guy.quenneville@cbc.ca

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