Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman said the province will no longer be holding back second doses of the future Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.
During the provincial government’s first COVID-19 briefing of 2021, Merriman said they were federally required to hold the second dose of the initial Pfizer doses.
“The manufacturer and the Public Health Agency of Canada required us to hold back the second shots. Going forward, we will no longer be doing that,” Merriman said on Wednesday.
“Here in Saskatchewan, we are getting the vaccine into people’s arms as quickly, safely and effectively as possible but we are limited by the number of doses that we have received. We could get absolutely more vaccinations done more quickly if and when the federal government provides us with more doses.
“The federal government is telling us to expect about 6,800 Pfizer doses a week in the last three weeks in January and one more shipment of 5,300 Moderna doses. That’s a total of 30,000 doses expected in January. This is just simply not near enough and it is significantly less than they promised us just last month.”
Merriman said concerns are being raised about a “slow pace” of vaccine deliveries with the federal government.
According to federal government data, Saskatchewan has received 13,675 doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as of Dec. 31, 2020. Of those doses, about a third of them have been used in inoculations.
One of the organizations concerned over the pace is the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses. Its president said the government has a responsibility to protect long-term care residents and health care workers on the front line, and the slow pace of vaccination isn’t helping Saskatchewan’s fight against COVID-19.
“We should be getting as many people vaccinated as possible right now. Our very best week should be that the vaccine fridge is empty,” Tracy Zambory told Global News over Zoom before the minister’s press conference.
Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, also said vaccines are being distributed and administered as they arrive.
“It is a very limited supply for the time being. And of course, it’s very complex logistics in terms of handling the vaccines … for the most part, the vaccination program is running smoothly,” Shahab said.
“Obviously, the Saskatchewan Health Authority, partners, First Nation partners, other partners are working in a very collaborative way to make sure that vaccines, as soon as they arrive, they are administered into the priority group, which at this time are long-term care residents and staff and COVID-facing health-care staff.
“It’s a complex vaccination program. The numbers will start increasing March, April and more and more groups will become eligible by age and by comorbidities. But at this point, there’s very limited supply coming at fixed intervals in January and February.”
Merriman said 3,900 doses of Pfizer vaccine arrived in Prince Albert on Wednesday.
“They have arrived at the Victoria Hospital today and given to priority health-care workers in emergency rooms, intensive care units, COVID-19 wards and testing assessment sites, as well as all residents and staff in long-term care homes,” Merriman said.
“We also received our first batch of Moderna vaccines in Saskatchewan just last week. (Tuesday), we began administrating those vaccines in northern Saskatchewan to health-care workers and long-term care residents. We are continuing to deliver these vaccines to the three far north regions as well as the northeast region. In the north east, vaccines will be sent to Melfort.”
Health officials said there were a total of 277 new COVID-19 cases in Wednesday’s update, with the overall total for the province growing to 16,804 since the first case was reported in March 2020. The new seven-day average of daily cases is up to 233.
There have been 174 coronavirus-related deaths in Saskatchewan to date.
-With files from Kyle Benning
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
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