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COVID-19: Saskatchewan premier, doctor say vaccines turned around hospitalizations

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan premier, doctor say vaccines turned around hospitalizations' Saskatchewan premier, doctor say vaccines turned around hospitalizations
WATCH: The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Saskatchewan has been trending down, but officials say most of the ones who are admitted have something in common — they aren't vaccinated. – May 27, 2021

Infectious disease doctor Alex Wong says at this time last month, he was crying in an over-capacity Regina intensive care unit as people as young as he was, with young kids just like he has, lay dying.

“It was just tragic what was going on,” Wong told Global News on Wednesday, thinking back to when Saskatchewan’s age-based vaccination program was still slowly rolling out.

“It was really, really, really bad, in ways that, hopefully, we’ll never see again here.”

Of the 187 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Saskatchewan on April 26, 45 were receiving intensive care — 27 in Regina alone.

Read more: Infectious disease doctor calls for lockdown in Regina as ICU beds fill, variant spreads

One month to the day later, those figures have dropped significantly. As of Wednesday, 133 were hospitalized, 27 of them receiving intensive care across the province.

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Wong says like others, he wants to and is looking ahead, but it’s been hard without looking back.

“There’s always that paranoia that we let our guard down and it’s all going to crash and burn again,” he said, describing the conflicting emotions he’s faced over the past week or two, getting to the point of acceptance he’s at now.

“We’re definitely out of the worst of it,” Wong said. “It’s a feeling of relief, but it’s also being able to finally exhale after being literally on edge for months.”

Read more: COVID-19: AstraZeneca vaccine available for 2nd doses in Saskatchewan

At what Wong describes as the peak of the third wave in Saskatchewan around that time, provincial officials were just ramping up their mass immunization campaign.

As of April 26, the age of eligibility to receive a first dose of the two-dose vaccines being used here was sitting at 44, according to the government’s data shared at the time. Only 38 per cent of adults over 18 years old had gotten a shot at that point.

“We really kind of rushed to get vaccine into people, at least first doses into people as much as possible, and that clearly played a really, really important role in terms of mitigating what this all looked like,” Wong said.

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Wednesday’s daily update reflected how, for more than a week now, vaccination has been open to anyone over the age of 12 in the province. Sixty-three per cent of those older than 18 have now had a first dose.

Saskatchewan, like other provinces, is planning for re-opening as it starts rolling out second doses.

Click to play video: 'Step Two of Sask. re-opening begins June 20 after 70% of those 30 and older vaccinated' Step Two of Sask. re-opening begins June 20 after 70% of those 30 and older vaccinated
Step Two of Sask. re-opening begins June 20 after 70% of those 30 and older vaccinated – May 25, 2021

Premier Scott Moe has continually championed the province’s vaccination effort.

On Tuesday, he said that the majority of people receiving in-patient or critical care right now are unvaccinated.

“Some, it may not have been available at that point in time,” Moe told reporters. “Some may have made a choice, a conscious choice, to not be vaccinated.

“In the days ahead, there’s only one group of those people that will be available: those who make a conscious choice not to be vaccinated — and I would ask people to take that decision very, very seriously.”

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