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Changes made to speed up pace of coronavirus vaccinations in Saskatchewan: Moe

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Saskatchewan changes guidance on Pfizer’s vaccines administering location' Coronavirus: Saskatchewan changes guidance on Pfizer’s vaccines administering location
WATCH: Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe announced on Tuesday that the guidance on not moving Pfizer’s vaccine from its primary location to other administering locations has now changed and that health officials will be able to move the vaccine shipments from their primary locations to long-term care homes directly and be administered on-site – Jan 12, 2021

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said the province needs to pick up the pace of its COVID-19 vaccination program and it will.

With a total of 9,880 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered in Saskatchewan as of Tuesday, Moe said there are about 7,500 are in the freezer with more expected to arrive this week.

“There’s been some questions about the pace of vaccinations in Saskatchewan and whether they should be going faster? The answer is yes, they should be going faster … A little bit of a sluggish start, admittedly,” Moe said.

“We’ll be doing things slightly different as we move forward and that is going to speed up the pace of vaccinations for Saskatchewan residents.”

Read more: Saskatchewan no longer holding back coronavirus vaccine doses

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Moe supplied three changes were made to address the rollout.

“We had made a policy decision to hold back those 50 per cent of those pilot vaccinations in the early days. That was on the advice provided to us from the federal government and the manufacturer,” he said.

“Two, we chose to go into our more rural and remote locations (in northern Saskatchewan) early so that as we are in a case where we don’t have or aren’t delivering thousands of vaccines each and every day, we’re able to focus our efforts in these more rural and remote locations.

“And now we have some open guidelines with respect to being able to (move) the Pfizer vaccine out of, for example, the Regina General Hospital, take it directly into long-term care homes in the area and deliver it rather than bringing the long-term care residents into the hospital. So those three changes are going to help our capacity.”

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Saskatchewan premier reverses decision on withholding 2nd dose of Pfizer’s vaccine to ramp up vaccination speed' Coronavirus: Saskatchewan premier reverses decision on withholding 2nd dose of Pfizer’s vaccine to ramp up vaccination speed
Coronavirus: Saskatchewan premier reverses decision on withholding 2nd dose of Pfizer’s vaccine to ramp up vaccination speed – Jan 12, 2021

Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, also spoke at a COVID-19 briefing on Tuesday afternoon.

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“Multiple things that come into play here, but it is challenging and initially with small amounts of vaccine that have to be distributed over a large geography,” he said.

“While there’s a lot of excitement about vaccination, vaccination won’t start having an impact at the population level until the second quarter (of 2021), later part of the second quarter and we really have to comply with public health measures until that time.

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“We need to protect ourselves, our families, our communities and the most vulnerable as the vaccination program keeps rolling out and gives that additional protection that ultimately will enable us to get out of the pandemic.”

According to Moe, the federal government has said that Saskatchewan can expect to receive about 190,000 Pfizer and Moderna vaccines by the end of the first quarter of 2021.

“That’s enough (doses) to do about 95,000 Saskatchewan residents. It’s about eight per cent of our population that could be fully vaccinated with the current allotment in the first quarter of 2021,” he said.

“The Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines have a significant, larger challenge with respect to logistics and the temperature they need to be stored at … we most certainly would be able to deliver the couple of hundred thousand or the 190,000 vaccines that the federal government is going to provide us in the first three months.”

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During the briefing, Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) CEO Scott Livingstone said their plan is to be ready.

“Make sure that we are ready, the system is ready and, in fact, immunization-ready with 24 hours’ notice across the province,” Livingstone said.

“And not just looking at what we’re getting for vaccine over the next 30 days, but looking at how many people do we need to vaccinate or plan to vaccinate and offer vaccinations to up until September of this year, where everybody should be offered a vaccine that wants one and then planning backwards from that.

“The focus is ensuring that the province is immunization-ready at all times, regardless of what’s coming down the pipe of vaccine.”

Read more: Canada secures 20M more Pfizer doses as vaccine makers monitor 2nd dose controversy

Government officials said the next Moderna shipment of 5,400 doses was expected to arrive Thursday, with 4,900 going to priority long-term and personal-care home staff and residents and health-care workers in the south-east and central-east zones.

“It’ll be sent out to Canora, Kamsack, Kelvington, Wadena and surrounding communities in the east-central area and Weyburn and a number of surrounding communities in the southeast,” Moe said.

“I would say that the days ahead, we’re going to see some significant increases in our daily vaccination rates.”

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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.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.