On Wednesday, Saskatchewan’s Health Minister Paul Merriman said everyone 30 years of age and older in the province could be vaccinated by May 10 if it sticks to its current age-based vaccine strategy.
However, some doctors are calling on the province to pivot away from its plan and target essential workers.
“COVID-19 is mutating into variants of concern (VOC) that threaten to overwhelm Saskatchewan’s health system. The virus is adapting. We ask the government to show flexibility and adapt to the rapidly changing circumstances of the pandemic,” said Dr. Barb Konstantynowicz, Saskatchewan Medical Association president.
“They need to be vaccinated immediately. Failure to do so jeopardizes the safety of physicians and health-care workers, as well as police officers, teachers, grocery workers, and others who are on the front line and are most at risk.”
COVID-19 vaccines are currently available to all residents 55 years of age and older. Continuing its current plan is something the province said was important if it wants every adult in Saskatchewan to receive their vaccination by June.
Merriman said putting an emphasis on essential workers isn’t the best move at this point.
“Based on the vaccine volumes that we’ve been getting, that could slow everything down. I understand they want to get moved up, but it isn’t very long right now,” Merriman said.
The province’s hospitals are currently providing care for 201 patients with COVID-19 — 159 are receiving inpatient care and 42 are in ICU, 27 of which, are in Regina.
As intensive care units in Saskatchewan continue to break records with the number of COVID-19 patients being admitted, Merriman called the situation extremely concerning and said the best way forward is through vaccines.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority recently reported short wait times at several immunization clinics across the province.
“The current age-based vaccination strategy will not get us through the challenges the province is facing,” Konstantynowicz said.
“Saskatchewan has had one of the most effective and nimble vaccine distribution processes to date in Canada. I believe that the vaccine distribution effort would be ready and able to adapt to change as needed.”
On Wednesday, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said while he will look for potential ways to vaccinate more frontline workers, the age-based plan is still the fastest way forward which would see those aged 40 and over to be vaccinated by April 26.
The province announced Wednesday it is extending its current public health measures until April 26. The guidelines include a ban on indoor gatherings in Regina, as well as the travel advisory in and out of the region.