Saskatchewan

Sask. doctors call vaccine distribution plan 'rational' and 'hopeful'

The province released more of its COVID-19 immunization delivery plan on Tuesday, and some Saskatchewan doctors say the plan is a strong and rational one.

Phase 2 slated to begin in April, depending on federal supply

Dr. Dennis Kendel, a retired physician and health policy consultant, says the province's vaccine distribution plan is a rational and hopeful one. (Trent Peppler/CBC)

The province released more of its COVID-19 immunization delivery plan on Tuesday, and some Saskatchewan doctors say the plan is a strong and rational one. 

Phase two of the plan is slated to begin in April. It will focus on the general population in 10-year increments, starting with people in their 60s.

The second phase is also set to include vaccinations for those in emergency shelters and those living and working in group homes for people with intellectual disabilities.

"And as I understand, the objective is to get as many people immunized as quickly as possible," said Dr. Dennis Kendel, a retired physician and health policy consultant. 

"I think the decision to actually proceed in progressive age cohorts probably is the best decision, because when you're trying to mobilize something as massive as this, trying to focus on special interest groups and special needs populations has much potential to actually slow things down."

The province says that once Phase 2 is underway, vaccinations will be available through mass immunization clinics, walk-in and drive-thru clinics, public health clinics and community-based options such as pharmacies.

Kendel says this diversity of immunization venues has the potential to work well. 

"At the peak of the distribution process, there would be 2,200 people involved in the vaccination process. So that would be people booking the appointments and facilitating moving through clinics and those actually giving the shots," Kendel said. 

According to the province, some of this staff would be drawn from the existing Saskatchewan Health Authority workforce, including non-clinical staff. 

The SHA intends to reach out to medical students and retired health professionals as well. 

"I do think that a lot of people are quite willing to step forward and help out, even though they may have been retired for a short while. They haven't lost their skills and hopefully they can be part of the the group that gets this done," Kendel said. 

"This is all predicated on an assumption of reasonably predictable supply and there have been problems which have been universal across Canada. So we aren't unique in that regard."

The province says that once Phase 2 is underway, vaccinations will be available through mass immunization clinics, walk-in and drive-thru clinics, public health clinics and community-based options such as pharmacies. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

The province says the commencement of mass vaccinations will depend on the number and consistency of vaccine deliveries from the federal government. Supply has been recently delayed.

But the provincial government says it is hopeful that mass vaccinations can start as soon as April, based on the current federal vaccine delivery schedule.

"Some of the problems that caused delay earlier are now resolved. The Pfizer plant shutdown is coming to an end, so Pfizer will actually be producing more than they did previously," Kendel said. 

"If something does interrupt supply, then we have to make adjustments and accommodate that. Getting angry at another level of government or getting angry at the supplier doesn't help. We have to deal with it as it comes." 

Vaccine rollout so far

Dr. Cory Neudorf, public health physician and community health and epidemiology professor at the University of Saskatchewan, calls the distribution plan "clear and transparent."

"I think the age-based approach ... really fits with their goal of wanting to protect the most vulnerable and those at highest risk and sort of preventing that serious illness and death that's going to end up causing the most serious impact on people of Saskatchewan and also on the health-care system," Neudorf said. 

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He says that Saskatchewan's vaccine rollout has been good so far.

"I think the ability to try to maximize the number of doses, including recognizing that there was a little more vaccine in each vial than the five doses required has allowed us to actually get more doses out than we were told were shipped to us," Neudorf said.

"The speed at which they rolled that out in the first few weeks of January ... we really caught up. And it was it was quite impressive."

But Neudorf said he would like to hear from the province about the vaccination plan for those individuals that are living with front-line workers or those that work with the vulnerable populations addressed in Phase 2 of the plan. 

(CBC News Graphics)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Laura is a reporter and associate producer for CBC Saskatchewan. She is also the community reporter for CBC's virtual road trip series Land of Living Stories. Laura previously worked for CBC Vancouver. Some of her former work has appeared in The Globe and Mail, NYLON Magazine, VICE Canada and The Tyee. Follow Laura on Twitter: @MeLaura. Send her news tips at laura.sciarpelletti@cbc.ca

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