In a bid to reach the final threshold in the provincial reopening plan — requiring at least 70 per cent of the eligible population to have a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine — as soon as possible, Saskatchewan is quite literally mobilizing its immunization teams.
The effort has slowly been shifting that way, but the government officially announced the strategy Tuesday, with boots on the ground Wednesday.
Dr. Shain Thakrar, a Saskatchewan Health Authority immunization team lead for Regina, told Global News it’s about “going to places where people are already going” to try to provide increased first-dose access.
“There’s a big push,” Thakrar said.
On Wednesday morning, one of those places was the corner of Scarth Street and 12th Avenue. At lunchtime, health-care workers greeted a steady stream of people.
“Those who are hesitant, or those who just haven’t had time to come down, more clinics like this, they’ll allow people to make it easier,” said Scott McCall, who, eligible for a second dose, happened upon the clinic.
Saskatchewan’s second-dose uptake has been strong since it’s been opening up to more and more age groups over the past month. But first-dose uptake has waned.
Over the past 10 days, health-care workers have been doing between 1,000 to 5,000 first doses per day and 5,000 and 10,000 second doses per day.
According to the most recent federal data available from June 5, the cumulative percentage of people who had received at least a first dose of COVID vaccine was lower in Saskatchewan, at 56.07 per cent, than in any other province.
Ken Ross, who also attended the pop-up clinic in downtown Regina on Wednesdays, said he thinks doing more of them will generate interest.
“We’re on the downhill slide. We’re seeing that in our regular numbers on a daily basis,” said Ross, who wants to commitment to “ensuring that everyone is adequately vaccinated and maybe not so much focus on the deadline of ‘Let’s reopen.’ ”
Saskatchewan enters second phase of its vaccine-based reopening plan on Sunday as more than 70 per cent of the population over the age of 30 has had at least a first dose.
If 70 per cent of the population over the age of 12 has had at least a first dose by then, the province would be able to set a date to move into the final phase for three weeks later.
Earlier this month, the health authority began vaccinating students and their families in schools.
“These people, they basically have children, they’re the working class, they’re busy,” he said. “They’re the last people to gain eligibility.”
Thakrar said it’s about meeting the targets in the plan, but also about protecting people.
Even a single dose of a COVID vaccine has been demonstrated to reduce risk of severe illness and inhibit transmission, he added.