Moe says no to vaccine mandates, passports but expects businesses, organizations will enact policies
Health minister says 'you're infringing on people's personal rights if you're mandating things'
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says his government will not be requiring proof of vaccine to visit businesses or participate in activities and it will not make individuals "take the vaccine."
This week, Manitoba announced government employees who work with vulnerable populations "need to be fully immunized for COVID-19 by Oct. 31, or undergo regular testing."
Moe sat down for an interview with Rawlco Radio on Thursday morning. He said Saskatchewan also has no plans to implement a vaccine passport system similar to B.C., Manitoba, and Quebec.
He said he expects that Saskatchewan-based businesses and organizations that choose to implement their vaccine requirement policies will do so in the days and weeks ahead.
"It is not the government's role to line people up and say 'you are going to take this needle if you are going to live in this society,'" Moe said.
The premier said vaccine mandates often include proof of a negative test in place of vaccination.
Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark has expressed support for vaccine passports and vaccination requirements.
The University of Saskatchewan, University of Regina, and Saskatchewan Polytechnic have all recently introduced vaccine policies.
On Thursday, two private companies that operate several nursing and retirement homes in Saskatchewan said they will require their employees across Canada to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Moe said the Saskatchewan Roughriders can implement a vaccine policy if they choose and his government would support them by assisting with proof-of-vaccine through the ministry of health.
He said people can access their vaccine records and the government is working on a QR code as well for mobile devices.
B.C. and Quebec vaccine passports lead to increased vaccine uptake
Earlier this month, Quebec announced on Sept. 1 it would require vaccine passports to attend places and take part in activities for individuals over 13 years old.
Quebec has developed an app that will contain the individuals vaccination status. It will be required for accessing places and activities "where the risk of transmission is high."
- Sporting events, concerts, movie theatres.
- Bars and restaurants.
- Indoor sports and activities.
The passport system was introduced on Aug. 5 and the app was available for download on Wednesday.
"People who have made the effort to get their two doses must be able to live a somewhat normal life," said Quebec Premier François Legault on Aug. 5.
Quebec's health minister Christian Dubé said more than 11,000 people booked appointments for their first shot the day the passport system was introduced.
"That is double [the total from] the previous days," Dubé said
Earlier this week, B.C. announced it will implement a vaccine passport system for sporting events, concerts, restaurants, and theatres. Manitoba has a similar policy.
On Thursday, the B.C. government said the number of people registering for the vaccination program or booking appointments each day has jumped by as much as 200 per cent compared to a week earlier. The biggest jumps, the government says, have been in people under the age of 40.
The B.C. government said that on Tuesday and Wednesday, 12,904 people under the age of 40 registered and 11,301 booked appointments, more than doubling last week's numbers.
Sask. health officials dismiss mandates, passports
On Wednesday, Saskatchewan's Health Minister Paul Merriman and chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said in separate interviews that the government would not mandate vaccinations.
Shahab questioned the necessity of provincial mandates, including masks, citing the need for voluntary compliance.
"We still have lots of vaccine. You know, before we get into the fall, I think it's critical that vaccine uptake goes up. And a lot of [my] colleagues are working with communities to do exactly just that."
He encouraged people to get vaccinated to help protect themselves and reduce the strain on the health-care system.
In July, 90 per cent of all new cases and hospitalizations were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people.
According to the province, 95 per cent of ICU admissions were not fully vaccinated and 100 per cent of deaths were people who had not been vaccinated.
Shahab said vaccine passports were not being implemented by the government, but that evidence indicates they do increase vaccine uptake.
"I absolutely agree that whenever there's a requirement, for example, in university students, the [vaccine] uptake does go up," Shahab told CBC's Sam Maciag.
Merriman said Wednesday that signs pointed to a fourth COVID-19 wave in the province but, like the premier, ruled out vaccine mandates.
"I think you're infringing on people's personal rights if you're mandating things," Merriman said.
"If it's government-mandated, it's just it changes the factor of the government telling you what to do versus you making a choice to go get it. If people don't want to get vaccinated, that's their choice."
He also rejected the idea of an incentive program.
"I haven't seen anywhere where the incentives have made a huge impact on their vaccination numbers."
The health minister encouraged people to get vaccinated and said there are 500,000 doses available in Saskatchewan.
As of Thursday, among provinces Saskatchewan had used the lowest percentage of the doses it received at 73 per cent. The Canadian average is 83 per cent.
Saskatchewan also ranks second last among all provinces and territories in the percentage of eligible people fully vaccinated.
Saskatchewan and Alberta rank the lowest among provinces in terms of the total population vaccinated.