Saskatchewan aiming to fully vaccinate all residents aged 12 and up by July 31
Thousands of youth are being added to the province's vaccine rollout plan
The Saskatchewan government says it's aiming to fully vaccinate all residents aged 12 and up against COVID-19 by July 31.
Health Minister Paul Merriman and Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab unveiled details of the plan on Thursday.
Merriman said the government is hoping to offer second doses to people within 13 weeks, or sooner, from when they received their first dose, depending on supply.
While the administration of second doses will follow the same priority-group and age-based sequencing as first doses, clinically vulnerable youth aged 12 to 15 will be vaccinated immediately, according to a release issued shortly before Merriman and Shahab's press conference.
On Wednesday, Health Canada determined the Pfizer-BioNTech shot is safe to use in people 12 to 15 years of age — paving the way for Saskatchewan to include youth in its vaccination roll out.
The province hopes to complete the vaccination of all youth with their first doses by the end of June. Parental consent will be required, though the Saskatchewan Health Authority clarified that children aged 13 years and older can legally consent to, refuse and revoke immunizations on their own behalf if they demonstrate capability and understanding of the standard information.
Schools will be involved in the vaccine rollout, but details are being finalized.
As for the rest of the population, second doses are expected to be offered on an age-based sequence by the end of May, when the delivery of first-doses among people aged 18 and over is expected to be completed.
"As of May 17, anyone who is 85 and older or anyone who received their first dose before February 15 can book their second dose," according to the release.
"It is anticipated that all Saskatchewan residents will be able to be fully vaccinated with two doses by July 31."
That won't apply to people who receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only one dose. Saskatchewan has yet to receive that brand of vaccine.
Patients being treated for cancer or who have receive solid organ transplants can also book appointments starting on May 17.
Because of the high amount of Pfizer vaccines expected in Saskatchewan's hands in May and June, officials said they believe there will be enough doses to simultaneously vaccinate 91,000 youth (the number found in the 2020 Saskatchewan Health Coverage Report) with first doses and seniors with second doses.
Pharmacies will play an increased role in the delivery of shots, according to the plan.
"At this time, public health is planning to offer your second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to match the brand of your first dose," according to the release.
Read the full plan here or below.
Province close to reaching Step 1 of reopening plan
The second-dose strategy and inclusion of youth was the government's second major announcement on the vaccine front this week.
On Tuesday, the province released its plan for gradually easing COVID-19 public health restrictions once three thresholds or "steps" are achieved:
- Step One - Last week of May: It has been three weeks since 70 per cent of residents aged 40 and above have received their first dose, and vaccine eligibility has opened to all adults ages 18 and older across the province.
- Step Two - Third week of June: It has been three weeks since 70 per cent of residents age 30 and above have received their first dose and three weeks since Step One began.
- Step Three - Second week of July: It has been three weeks since 70 per cent of residents age 18 and older have received their first dose and three weeks Step Two began.
On Thursday, Merriman said vaccinating Saskatchewan residents aged 12 and over will not change any of the age-based thresholds in the reopening plan.
But the health minister did hold out hope for even higher vaccine uptake than 70 per cent.
"We want to get up as high as 80 or 90 per cent," he said.
Sixty-eight per cent of people aged 40 and over have received their first dose, Merriman said.
That positions Saskatchewan to begin making some of the changes outlined in Step One, including resuming group fitness classes and allowing up to 150 people in churches or other places of worship.
The capacity limit for public indoor gatherings would also increase to 30 from the current limit of 10.
with files from Adam Hunter, Sam Maciag and John Paul Tasker