Sask. reaches 40% of adults with first dose, vaccine supply to increase next week
Pharmacies expected to play major role in vaccinations, health minister says
Saskatchewan's Minister of Health says a recent lull in vaccinations due to lack of supply will soon be remedied by an influx of vaccines which should flow into the province early next week.
On Wednesday, Paul Merriman said the province is receiving 63,000 Pfizer doses next week, which is double its weekly allotment. He said he is expecting to also receive more shots of Moderna and a small amount of the recently approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
"The good news is more vaccines are on the horizon and we want to get people in as soon as possible."
From Apr. 8 to Apr. 11, the province was administering an average of 11,964 doses per day.
However, from Apr. 25 to Apr. 28, that number had decreased to an average of 5,867 doses a day.
The low amount of vaccine has led to issues with people specifically in Regina and Saskatoon finding available appointments.
Some have resorted to booking in the closest available community, which Merriman says is perfectly fine.
"Keep calling and keep trying to get in online. Maybe there isn't one in your immediate area, maybe there is a clinic across town or within a half hour you can drive to."
Having to get in the car for a vaccination road trip may be a short-lived phenomenon.
"The vaccine supply is increasing in May. The federal government is telling us more vaccine is coming."
That anticipated vaccine increase may allow the Regina drive-thru clinic to reopen next week. The Saskatchewan Health Authority had targeted May 2 as a possible re-open date but the Pfizer shipment will not arrive until Tuesday, May 4.
Merriman said the government wants to re-open the Regina drive-thru "as soon as possible."
On Tuesday, Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingstone said patients in the Regina ICU were younger and sicker than had been seen in the past.
He said some of those are too young to receive a vaccine or became age eligible while in care.
Dr. Saqib Shahab said too many people who are able to be vaccinated have not booked an appointment or made it through a walk-in or drive-thru clinic.
"I would challenge all of us to go for a higher vaccination rate because that is absolutely essential."
As of Wednesday, according to government data, 40 per cent of adults in the province had been vaccinated.
As of Tuesday, the North West, North East, Central East, Central West, and South Central regions had more than 40 per cent of adults vaccinated with a first dose.
Saskatoon and all three Far North Regions were at 35 per cent or lower.
On Friday, Saskatchewan will move to making those 40 and over eligible to receive a vaccination.
Merriman said Wednesday some people in hospital had the opportunity to get a first dose of vaccine and did not.
"We have seen so many people that are not choosing to get a vaccine, that have severe outcomes and if they choose to have a vaccine the severe outcome is reduced to basically zero."
Merriman encouraged eligible people who remain unsure or have not made an appointment to do so.
"What the vaccine does, it prevents severe outcomes ... The severe outcomes are basically zero once you are fully vaccinated."
Pharmacies could take over appointment system, Merriman says
Saskatchewan has initiated a pilot program this week which allows 63 pharmacies in 14 communities to administer vaccines. The majority of the pharmacies are in the Regina area.
Merriman said the hope is that eventually pharmacies will play a much larger role in delivering vaccines to the public.
He said they are capable of administering "tens of thousands" of shots per day once operational.
"The pharmacies are going to look at taking over appointment booking into the future. This isn't to happen overnight and we will give the public fair warning."
Merriman said the transition would allow the health authority to redeploy resources and give tired staff a reprieve.
"We're just going to scale it back so the pharmacies can scale up."
He said the government would "balance" the options offered through the SHA,between a drive-thru delivery system and pharmacies.
"I would say it's fair to say pharmacies will be heavily involved in the second doses."