Sask. nurses, doctors excited more health-care workers will get COVID-19 vaccines

Saskatchewan announced on Monday that it would expand COVID-19 vaccinations to first responders and health-care workers.

Saskatchewan will expand COVID-19 jabs to health-care workers

Saskatchewan has modified its COVID-19 vaccination delivery plans. (Guy LeBlanc/Radio-Canada)

The union representing Saskatchewan's nurses says its members are happy that more health care workers will get a chance to receive their first COVID-19 vaccine. 

"The feedback [the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses] has received from registered nurses is that they are excited, relieved and ready to get their vaccine," Tracy Zambory, president of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, told CBC News in a statement Tuesday. 

"However, excessive workloads, short-staffing pressures and accessibility have proven to be significant obstacles for many."

The provincial government announced on Monday modifications to its COVID-19 vaccination plan. 

Front-line health-care workers who were not included in the first phase of Saskatchewan's vaccination program will now have a chance to receive their jabs. 

They include outpatient and community services staff, nurses, pharmacists, therapy staff, mental health professionals, social workers, housekeeping, dietary and ward support staff. 

Dr. Alex Wong, an infectious disease physician, said the decision to expand vaccinations to more health-care workers is a good thing. 

"I think reallocating those doses and allowing other other health-care workers, nurses, pharmacists, physicians and our front-line staff to be able to access those those vaccines is is helpful," he explained. 

The first phase of the province's vaccination program began in December. It was targeted toward residents of long-term care and personal care homes, members of vulnerable populations and 40,500 health-care workers. 

On Monday, the province said only 67 per cent of Saskatchewan health-care workers eligible to get a dose in the first phase chose to do so. That left more than 13,152 doses unused. All of them will now be reallocated to health-care workers who were not in the first phase. 

Workers will be notified by the Saskatchewan Health Authority or the province's college of physicians and surgeons if they are eligible.         

Saskatchewan began the second phase of its vaccination program last month with the goal of vaccinating the general population from oldest to youngest. 

Call for 'aggressive policy change'

Wong said it's not crystal clear to him why the province decided to expand vaccinations from being based on age to now including first-responders and more health-care workers, but that it makes sense. 

However, he's not sure why other public-facing workers such as restaurants and grocery store clerks were not included in this. 

"There's a need for policy change, aggressive policy change, both in terms of mandated restrictions as well as supporting the people at greatest risk in this third wave so that we try to get out of this with as least we get out of this in the way that is least painful," he said. 

It was a sentiment echoed by Zambory. 

She said the vast majority of registered nurses and essential workers in the province are part of the younger demographic that is "driving the current COVID-19 case increases."

"Vaccinating public-facing workers is a critical adjustment to protect the capacity of Saskatchewan's already strained health-care system. Further expansion of this strategy is something registered nurses will continue to advocate for," said Zambory.