Saskatchewan government looking to integrate AstraZeneca into province’s vaccination plan

Click to play video: 'Including AstraZeneca into Saskatchewan’s vaccination plan' Including AstraZeneca into Saskatchewan’s vaccination plan
WATCH: The Saskatchewan government is looking into how it can best work the latest approved COVID-19 shot into its vaccination plan – Mar 1, 2021

The provincial government is looking into how best to work the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot into its vaccination plan.

Health Canada approved the third vaccine on Feb. 26 and Saskatchewan’s health minister anticipates it could help immunize people in remote parts of the province.

“If AstraZeneca comes on, we would certainly dovetail that into our Moderna vaccines for the north,” Paul Merriman told Global News.

Read more: Canada approves AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, AstraZeneca doesn’t need to be shipped and stored in extremely cold temperatures.

While Pfizer requires -70 C and Moderna is chilled at -20 C, AstraZeneca can be held in an average refrigerator.

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Read more: Saskatchewan First Nations install cold-chain equipment for COVID-19 vaccine storage

A University of Saskatchewan epidemiologist noted initial studies in countries with higher vaccination rates show the shots are helping slow the spread of the virus.

“Even if someone is exposed to the virus, and let’s say they get a mild case or are asymptomatic, can they spread the virus to others? Are they shedding virus?” Dr. Cory Neudorf posed.

He added because AstraZeneca can be stored at more moderate temperatures, it makes it easier to implement it in places like pharmacies and doctor’s offices for phase two.

Click to play video: 'Health Minister Paul Merriman on vaccine plan, AstraZeneca' Health Minister Paul Merriman on vaccine plan, AstraZeneca
Health Minister Paul Merriman on vaccine plan, AstraZeneca – Mar 1, 2021

The province is unsure of the impact the AstraZenca approval and shipments will have on its current plan, but estimates Saskatchewan should receive 15,000 of the 500,000 doses slated for Canada in March.

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Merriman added the group the province has selected to go first is well underway.

“We’ve got about 90 per cent of our long-term care staff with first shot vaccinations. So this is a very good stat because it’s taking some pressure off of our health-care system,” he said.

Nearly 80,000 people in Saskatchewan have been vaccinated so far.

The minister noted a timeline for phase two hasn’t been decided, but it will start after the 200,000 people who qualify for phase one have had both of their shots.

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