Health Minister Paul Merriman received his seasonal influenza shot on Thursday as part of this year’s flu immunization campaign.
“Getting the flu shot is important every year but given the pressures that we are seeing in our health-care system, it’s especially important this year,” Merriman said.
“I know we all have busy lives and I know it’s easy to say ‘I’ll get around to it later;’ how easy it is to think that ‘the flu shot is no big deal.’
“We have lost many lives to COVID-19 over the past year, but thanks to our provincial vaccination-team professionals working hard, we’ve been able to stick it to COVID and we’ve even saved more lives … and please take the time to get your flu shot.”
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) influenza vaccination clinics started up in the province on Tuesday.
“There’s no excuse in terms of accessibility to make those appointments as soon as possible … Please get your flu shot. Help yourself, those around you and the health-care system as a whole,” SHA medical director for immunization Dr. Tania Diener said on Thursday.
“But most of all, to protect our health-care system that is under tremendous stress, mostly due to COVID at this point in time.”
On Thursday, the provincial government’s dashboard showed 335 COVID-19 patients in hospital and 4,294 active cases. The overall death toll was up by five to 769. Saskatchewan’s seven-day average of new daily infections is 418.
“It’s not like there’s ICU nurses that are not being utilized to the maximum capacity,” Merriman said.
“We want to make sure that we’re maintaining the proper care for those individuals … the staff has been doing an amazing job in acute (care) and in ICU to be able to manage this. But if it gets to a point where we have to move people out-of-province, then we will be able to maintain that quality of care.
“And that’s why we’ve been able to work with Ontario. And we’re also our officials have reached out to Manitoba to have those discussions as well … Let’s hope we don’t get to that point but if we do, we’re ready.”
This year, COVID-19 vaccinations are available at most SHA-operated flu shot clinics in order for people to receive both at the same time and location.
“Yes, it is safe … staff are trained to provide the COVID vaccine and the influenza vaccine at the same time. Just going to be two different arms,” Diener said.
“(We) really encourage people who still haven’t received their COVID to also get it at the same time as their flu vaccine.
“There’s more than 300 pharmacies where these appointments can be made. There’s some physician and nurse practitioner offices and more than 126 clinics.”
The total number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in the province is 1,611,847.
Of Thursday’s 315 new infections, the provincial government said 238 were unvaccinated, which included 82 children under the age of 12 who are not yet eligible for vaccination.
“The (COVID-19) vaccination rate of the eligible people is at 84 per cent … that’s first dose. Second dose is at about 74 per cent,” Merriman said.
For the first time in the province, a flu shot booking tool is now available on SHA’s website. Appointments can also be booked by calling 1-833-727-5829.