Saskatoon

High vaccine uptake 'absolutely essential' to Sask. reopening, top doctor says

Dr. Saqib Shahab says province should see more than 75 per cent of its residents get their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Saqib Shahab says more than 75% of residents should get their first dose

Premier Scott Moe speaks in person during a Saskatchewan COVID-19 news conference on Tuesday. Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab attended virtually. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

If Saskatchewan wants to fully shed the trappings imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, a high percentage of its residents need to take a vaccine — preferably even more people than the target recently touted by Premier Scott Moe, the province's chief medical officer says. 

"In the presence of low case numbers and low hospitalisations, we can cautiously look at reopening," Dr. Saqib Shahab said Tuesday. "I would challenge all of us to go for a higher vaccination rate because that is absolutely essential.

"[That] will need to be a key tool for us to come out [of the broad pandemic-era restrictions]."

Last week, Premier Scott Moe said the province is hoping at least 70 per cent of its entire population will take a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. 

On Tuesday, Shahab mentioned a 75 per cent first-dose uptake target, cited by the federal government as a potential benchmark for lifting COVID-19 restrictions. He then encouraged Saskatchewan residents to do even better than that. 

If more than a quarter of Saskatchewan residents do not get vaccinated, and some of those people continue to work outside the home, "we will continue to see high rates of transmission," Shahab said, adding that workplaces remain a fixture of transmissions.

"We have to understand why transmission is happening, why people are choosing not to get vaccinated, address vaccine hesitancy as individuals. Talk to your public health nurse or talk to your health-care provider. Talk to your pharmacist."

Both Moe and Shahab stressed the need for people to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible to an extraordinary degree during Tuesday's COVID-19 news conference. 

Moe received a COVID-19 vaccine in Regina earlier in April. (Twitter/Scott Moe)

Moe also cited the high vaccination rates seen in other countries such as the United States and Israel — and the resulting lifting of restrictions — as something to aim for in Saskatchewan.

"They range from 40 to 60 per cent," he said. "Saskatchewan is running a little bit above 31 per cent, maybe 32 per cent in our vaccination rate of the entire population — close to 40 per cent of those that are eligible.

"So we're behind those jurisdictions, but not very far behind. And we're hopeful that, as we achieve the same metrics as those countries, [those vaccination rates] will most certainly improve our hospitalizations and our severe outcomes here in this province."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Ottawa, originally from Cornwall, Ont.

Story tips? Email me at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca or DM me @gqinott on Twitter.

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