'We're not asking you to storm the beaches of Normandy,' Sask. premier tells vaccination holdouts
In blunt remarks, Scott Moe directly addresses those choosing not to get vaccinated against COVID-19
There are various reasons why some people in Saskatchewan have not been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Premier Scott Moe.
Some simply can't because of a medical condition. Some may not have been eligible at an earlier point. Some may not have had access to vaccines in their area.
But on Tuesday, Moe took aim at another category: people who are choosing to remain unvaccinated, discouraging others from getting their shots and operating under "some misguided notion of defending your personal freedoms."
"Here's the thing," Moe told that group. "You're actually the ones that are standing in the way."
WATCH | Premier Moe directly addresses "misguided" unvaccinated Saskatchewan residents
'Get a tiny needle in your arm'
Moe and his chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, said high vaccination uptake in Saskatchewan is key to lifting more public health restrictions beyond Step 2 of the province's reopening plan.
It was a message officials have underscored before, but not with the bluntness delivered by Moe during Tuesday's COVID-19 new conference.
"It's really not that big of a deal," the premier said.
"We're not asking you to storm the beaches of Normandy. All we're asking you to do is to go in and to get a tiny needle in your arm."
Those who go unvaccinated remain at risk of contracting COVID-19, he added.
Most remaining restrictions in Saskatchewan will be lifted under the reopening plan's third and final stage, but that won't be triggered until three weeks have elapsed since Step 2 and until 70 per cent of all adults have received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
"But we can't even stop there," Moe said of the 70-per-cent target, which stood at 63 per cent as of Tuesday.
"We need to get as many people vaccinated as possible. And we need to make sure that [they] go back and receive their second shot."
Moe's admonishing words came as heath officials reported 5.6 per cent of all Saskatchewan residents have been fully vaccinated so far. That figure positions Saskatchewan behind other provinces compared to earlier in 2021, when Saskatchewan frequently led the country in the rate at which single-dose vaccinations were administered.
Only Saskatchewan residents aged 80 and over, or people who got their first shot on or before March 1, are presently eligible to book appointments for their second shot.
Most residents are expected to be eligible by some time in July or even sooner, depending on when they got their first shot.
Moe says vaccine takeup is 'quite strong'
Moe said the vast majority of the 136 Saskatchewan COVID-19 patients currently in hospital have not been vaccinated, and that some may have made "a conscious choice to not be vaccinated."
"I would ask people to take that decision very, very seriously," Moe said.
Scott Livingstone, the CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, immediately followed Moe and said he believed supply was the single biggest factor limiting the province's vaccination rate.
"If supplies were there, I believe truly that we'd be a lot farther ahead than we are today, both on first and second doses,' Livingstone said.
Moe said his remarks Tuesday were not spurred by concern about vaccine takeup, which he said has been "quite strong" in all age groups.
But he added, "There's no reason why it shouldn't be extremely, extremely strong to the point of virtually everyone making that choice."
Livingstone said over 12,000 youth aged 12 to 17 have been vaccinated in the last week, and that the proportion of people in their 30s who had been vaccinated has increased by 23 percentage points in the last two weeks. He said those facts both speak against the idea that vaccinations have stalled.