Sask. Medical Association hoping for no delays in rollout of COVID-19 vaccine

The Saskatchewan Health Authority says its recieved confirmation from Pfizer it will recieve a second supply of vaccines within the nescessary window, as the SHA is distributing the vaccine as its recieved as part of a pilot project in Regina.

The vaccine is distributed in two doses between 21 and 28 days apart

The Saskatchewan Medical Association is hoping there won't be any delays in distributing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will be rolled out in two doses. (Frank Augstein/The Associated Press)

Saskatchewan doctors are watching closely as the provincial government prepares to roll out the first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines in Saskatchewan.

On Tuesday, the province is set to start distributing 1,950 doses of the vaccine as they are received as part of a pilot project in Regina. The province is currently depending on a second successful delivery of the vaccine for the required second dose within 21 to 28 days.

President of the Saskatchewan Medical Association and Regina family doctor Dr. Barb Konstantynowicz hopes there are no delays in the vaccine delivery.

"It's concerning because you absolutely must have that second dose in order to confer long-term immunity," she said.

She said it's her understanding both provincial and federal levels of government have been working hard with the vaccine manufacturers and their supply to ensure the vaccine will be available.

The logistics of that process and whether or not it's appropriate, are left with the provincial government and the Saskatchewan Health Authority, but she said the upcoming pilot will provide health officials with critical data and information for the rest of the roll out. 

"This is a complicated vaccine in order to be able to transport and manage and to provide for the individuals," she said. Adding later: "That pilot project will give the team in Regina quite a bit of information about if this plan is working." 

In a statement the Saskatchewan Health Authority said it "received confirmation from Pfizer that the second doses required for Saskatchewan's pilot will arrive within the necessary 21-day window." 

The health authority statement said following vaccine delivery, it will be holding back enough of the vaccine for the required second dose, with more vaccines arriving weekly.

In the province's Vaccine Delivery Plan, however, it outlines that "vaccine arrival is dependent on manufacturer production rates or potential issues with manufacturing." 

During the pilot program healthcare workers in ICUs, emergency departments and COVID Units in Regina will be the first to receive the vaccine. 

Phase 1 of the province's vaccine delivery plan will focus on health-care workers, elderly residents in care homes, seniors over 80 and residents in northern remote communities.It's anticipated to start in late December, with the planned administration of 202,052 doses. 

Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout, which will see the general population begin to be vaccinated, is scheduled to begin in April 2021.

Dr. Barb Konstantynowicz, a family physician in Regina and president of the Saskatchewan Medical Association says the organization is hoping there are no delays in the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine in Saskatchewan. (Supplied by Saskatchewan Medical Association)

Dr. Konstantynowicz said while the SMA is hoping for the best in terms of the delivery of the vaccine, she's confident Saskatchewan's healthcare system will be able to accommodate any delays or logistical issues that may come along the way. 

"These will all be items that will very much be on the radar of our medical officers and our public-health colleagues who will then determine what the next best steps would be," she said.

Production ramping up

In a statement sent to CBC, Christina Antoniou, Director of Corporate Affairs for Pfizer Canada, said the company is not anticipating any issues around vaccine stock.

"Pfizer and BioNTech are working closely with our suppliers to ramp up production of the vaccine as quickly and safely as possible to help meet the needs throughout this pandemic," she said in the statement. 

"At this time, we do not anticipate supply concerns. We operate one of the most sophisticated supply chain systems in the industry."

Depending on vaccine supply, the province's goal for the province is "for all residents to be able to access the vaccine where they live or work," with plans for mass immunization clinics and distribution through regular healthcare channels. 

Earlier this week, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe encouraged residents in the province to get vaccinated. He stressed that while it's the Government of Saskatchewan's job to distribute the vaccine, as "swiftly and safely" as possible, the public have a role to play as well.

"We all need to get vaccinated. Not just for ourselves, but for others and for those around us," he said. "It is the Saskatchewan way and it's how we will protect those who are around us and how we will ultimately get our life back to normal."

Dr. Konstantynowicz noted family doctors across the province can play a critical part of the vaccine distribution in the province, saying they're ready and willing to help.

She said she agreed with Premier Moe that getting the vaccine is the right thing to do, noting its gone through numerous trials and reviews to ensure it is safe. 

"Although it appears to be very fast, the science has been very thorough," she said.