Saskatoon's Lighthouse vaccinates hundreds of front-line workers using leftover doses

Hundreds of front-line workers in Saskatoon have a new layer of protection against the virus that causes COVID-19.

Police, Prairie Harm Reduction staff and community support officers among those who got shots

Saskatoon's Lighthouse vaccincated hundreds of front-line workers using leftover doses. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Hundreds of front-line workers in Saskatoon have a new layer of protection against the virus that causes COVID-19.

The Lighthouse Supported Living Inc. and the Saskatchewan Health Authority have distributed 440 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to front-line workers thanks to extra doses left over once the Lighthouse's clients were inoculated. 

Anna Pacik, the Lighthouse's manager of fundraising and communications, said sharing those doses was positive for everyone working with marginalized people in the city.

"We know there's a need of so many more [doses] than we're actually getting," she said. 

"So it was really important for us to be able to not waste, but also to be able to support the community support people who do a lot of work in, and around, the Lighthouse." 

Pacik said local police officers, firefighters and staff from community organizations like Prairie Harm Reduction (PHR) — which operates the province's only supervised drug consumption site — were among those to receive a shot.

"To be able to share that gift with the folks that support our programs and our people here, it gives you such a wonderful feeling," she said.

"It's just a win, win, win all around."

Anna Pacik, the organization’s manager of fundraising and communications, says sharing the vaccines is a 'win, win, win' as it benefits both frontline staff and those the Lighthouse works to serve and support. (Don Somers/CBC)

Jason Mercredi, PHR's executive director, said the organization has been working with the Lighthouse for years and the relationship has been made stronger by the pandemic.

"We're two organizations that don't really have the option to not operate," he said. "We're both very concerned about the people living in poverty, homeless people, people living with addictions, so it just makes sense for the two of us to work together."

Jason Mercredi, the executive director of Prairie Harm Reduction, says his staff jumped at the chance to get their vaccines. (Kendall Latimer/CBC)

Mercredi said the Lighthouse and the health authority are trying to be proactive as they can with vaccine supply. 

"We jumped at that opportunity," he said. 

Mercredi said PHR supports calls from unions to have essential workers vaccinated, saying it doesn't make sense to him that some front-line workers, like police, are still working without protection against the COVID-19 virus. 

Local community support officers were among those who received doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine through the Lighthouse. (Submitted by Community Support Program)

Community support officers (CSOs), who patrol the city's downtown and other business improvement districts, also received the Pfizer vaccine from the Lighthouse.

CSO supervisor Rob Garrison said his staff are on the front lines everyday.

"There were a lot of things we went through as a team, so it was really nice last week that we all went there together and ... were all able to get it at the same time, at the same place," he said.

"It was just a great team building thing after a year of hardship."

A statement from the Saskatchewan Health Authority said it has a strategy in place to ensure no vaccine doses are wasted and the Lighthouse's distribution of the extra doses is that strategy in action.