With Phase 1 of Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 vaccination plan underway, the province released details on the rollout of Phase 2 of the plan.
Officials said it will focus on the general population in 10-year increments, starting with people in their 60s.
“The commencement of mass vaccinations will depend on the number and consistency of vaccine deliveries from the federal government,” said Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman.
“We are hopeful that mass vaccinations can start as soon as April, based on the current vaccine delivery schedule from the federal government.”
Merriman said the province currently has the highest percentage of vaccine supply in people’s arms in the country and delivered the second highest number of shots per capita next to P.E.I.
However, he said the province is currently limited in its delivery plan due to the scarce supply they are receiving.
“This week, we expect to receive fewer than 2,000 doses here in Saskatchewan,” Merriman said, adding there are roughly 190,000 people in Phase 1 of the vaccination plan — 380,000 doses.
“So far, we have only been able to do 12 per cent of the people identified in Phase 1.
“Our goal will be to vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, and to do so in a way that reduces severe outcomes.”
Merriman said Saskatchewan is ready for Phase 2, which will use age as the foundation for setting out the immunization plan.
Age is considered the number one risk factor for severe outcomes, hospitalizations and death from the coronavirus, they said. People of advanced age are also likely to be clinically extremely vulnerable or living with other chronic conditions, health officials said.
Once people in their 60s are vaccinated, the plan will proceed to younger groups, starting with people in their 50s and scaling down from there. Officials said age groupings could be expanded for those under the age of 50 if vaccine supplies allow.
Phase 2 also includes targeted vaccinations for adults and staff at group homes for people with intellectual disabilities and shelters.
As for the availability of vaccine clinics, the Saskatchewan Health Authority said it will operate 226 clinics — 141 mass immunization clinics, 24 drive-thru clinics and 61 mobile clinics — in 181 communities.
The Saskatchewan government said it has reached an agreement with the Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan for pharmacists to administer the vaccine.
While the province is targeting April for the start of Phase 2, health officials said it will depend on vaccine supplies.
Last week, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe expressed concern as there was no confirmation on shipments of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines past the end of February.
“The federal government has told provinces and territories that we can expect vaccine deliveries to ramp up in the second quarter of this year,” Moe said on Feb. 4.
“Obviously, that should happen sooner, and more vaccines should be approved and more vaccines should be delivered.”
The federal government said last week that all Canadians who want to get the vaccine will be able to do so by the end of September.
There is also a change in the number of doses available in each vial of the Pfizer vaccine.
The Public Health Agency of Canada approved a regulatory change for the vaccine from five to six doses per vial.
Saskatchewan health officials said this will not change the count for this week’s shipment to the province.
Starting the week of Feb. 15, all Pfizer shipments to Saskatchewan will be based on six doses per vial.
The Ministry of Health and the Saskatchewan Health Authority are looking at the potential impact on vaccine distribution plans.
Saskatchewan continues to move ahead with its Phase 1 plan for high-risk members of the population, including those at an advanced age, residents and staff at long-term and personal care homes, and health-care workers in emergency departments, COVID-19 units, testing and assessment centres and intensive care units.
As of Tuesday, 44,521 vaccine doses had been administered in the province — 35,446 first doses and 9,075 second doses.
— With files from Jonathan Guignard and The Canadian Press