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Saskatchewan announces 4-month gap between first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan announces 4-month gap between first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine' Saskatchewan announces 4-month gap between first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine
WATCH: Saskatchewan will wait up to four months between delivering coronavirus vaccine doses in hopes of getting at least one shot to all adults who want one by the end of June – Mar 5, 2021

The Saskatchewan government announced on Thursday that it will be spacing out first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months.

The announcement comes on the heels of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommendation released Wednesday that provinces and territories extend the period between the first and second doses due to vaccine shortages.

Read more: Provinces, territories can wait 4 months to administer 2nd COVID-19 shot, NACI says

“We are officially moving to the four-month interval,” Premier Scott Moe said during a virtual premiers’ conference focused on federal health transfers.

He also criticized the federal government’s procurement of vaccines.

“They’ve done a disappointing job at best,” Moe said.

Saskatchewan will implement NACI’s recommendation starting Friday.

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Government officials specified in a press release that this four-month interval does not apply to long-term and personal care home residents and staff who are still waiting to receive either both doses or just their second dose.

Several provinces made the move to four-month intervals between doses before NACI’s announcement, including British Columbia and Manitoba.

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan to expand window between COVID-19 vaccine doses to 4 months' Saskatchewan to expand window between COVID-19 vaccine doses to 4 months
Saskatchewan to expand window between COVID-19 vaccine doses to 4 months – Mar 4, 2021

Read more: Saskatchewan premier hints at easing some COVID-19 restrictions early

At a press conference on Tuesday, Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said the province would look at taking the same approach depending on NACI’s recommendations. He added if the province did take this approach, Saskatchewan residents 18 and over could be vaccinated by the end of June.

Arrival of AstraZeneca in Saskatchewan  

Saskatchewan government officials said residents aged 60 to 64 and Phase 1 priority health-care workers will be offered the first 15,500 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.NACI recommends that AstraZeneca be given to individuals under 65. Making these doses available to residents in the 60-64 age category is an exception to Saskatchewan’s Phase 1 criteria in order to follow NACI’s recommendations.
Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan to introduce AstraZeneca exception allowing vaccination of 60-64 age group' Saskatchewan to introduce AstraZeneca exception allowing vaccination of 60-64 age group
Saskatchewan to introduce AstraZeneca exception allowing vaccination of 60-64 age group – Mar 4, 2021
Administration of AstraZeneca doses is set to begin on March 22.All 15,500 doses are expected to be administered within one week on a by-appointment basis.Health-care workers will receive information about their availability from the Saskatchewan Health Authority directly. Eligible individuals will be able to book appointments over the phone.

The phone-in booking system for COVID-19 vaccines is still in its testing phase before it is launched next week. Residents are asked not to call 811 seeking a vaccination appointment at this time.

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Still need time to decide on restrictions: Shahab 

Shahab touched on what restrictions may be lifted in the coming weeks during Thursday’s press conference.

He said he still needs to wait until next week to make any decisions.

“We have done very well because we have managed to keep most sectors open throughout our second wave. It may have taken us longer to come out of it, but restaurants were open, retail was open, you could do many things albeit with some very specific guidelines,” Shahab said.

He added that he knows it’s been hard for some people not to meet others within their homes.“In the past, we did have, two to three households as a bubble of up to 10. That’s something that we’re looking at carefully. That is that’s something that may, again be a safer option to allow.”Shahab stressed that there are still “fairly high” transmission rates in some parts of the province. He said even if certain restrictions are lifted, individuals should still follow their own risk assessment.“I think if you are a person who’s 70 and older, 60 and older, 50 and older, your risk is higher. You really should continue to shield yourself and really, you know, meet and greet friends and relatives outdoors. Think of getting vaccinated as soon as you’re able to.”Shahab added that residents have done well over the last 11 and 12 months, and individuals need to remain cautious.“I think it would be unfortunate if we were to get exposed so close to that finish line,” Shahab said.Both Shahab and SHA CEO Scott Livingstone also encouraged residents to accept any approved vaccine that is available when it’s their turn to get the shot.“Please accept the vaccine that’s available when you are eligible and I will do the same. At some point in the future. You know, there may be a choice or they may not be. But I think at this point it’s so vital to get protection as quickly as it is available that I would strongly recommend any of the three approved vaccines in Canada are safe, effective (and) equivalent,” Shahab said.Livingstone echoed these comments.“The right vaccine is the vaccine that’s in front of you,” Livingstone said.
Click to play video: '‘Too early to say’ whether vaccinations have lowered COVID-19 hospitalization: Livingstone' ‘Too early to say’ whether vaccinations have lowered COVID-19 hospitalization: Livingstone
‘Too early to say’ whether vaccinations have lowered COVID-19 hospitalization: Livingstone – Mar 4, 2021

—With files from Hannah Jackson

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