Saskatchewan’s vaccine rollout strategy is changing to better target frontline workers around the province.
The provincial government announced on Monday that mobile vaccination units will begin to prioritize first responders once current priority populations are complete. These vaccination units currently target certain congregate living settings such as group home and shelter staff and residents.
“Once vaccinations in these settings are complete, mobile vaccination units will target first responders including police officers, fire fighters and public health inspectors and will be dispatched to central workplace settings,” reads a release from the government. “Targeted vaccination of first responders with mobile vaccination units is anticipated to commence within two weeks upon the completion of congregate living setting vaccinations.”
The process of vaccinating first responders began in Regina over the weekend where police officers in Regina went through the drive-thru site at Evraz Place. According to the government, these vaccinations were processed during a time of low wait times on Saturday evening and into Sunday.
Paramedics, which are commonly considered first responders, were prioritized for vaccination in the first phase of the vaccine delivery plan.
Unused doses from Phase 1 to remaining health care workers
The government says remaining vaccines from Phase 1 prioritization will be allocated to frontline health care workers not included in the phase.
About 40,500 health care workers were prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccine in Phase 1 prioritization framework. Of the 40,500 priority health care workers, first-dose uptake amongst these workers has been at 27,348 or 67 per cent. The remaining 13,152 first doses will be given to eligible Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) health care workers and physicians.
NDP Leader Ryan Meili said on Monday that he has real concerns about the lower-than-expected vaccination numbers amongst this group of health care workers.
“I’d really like to know how this breaks down, which groups of health care providers are not getting the vaccine, or has the availability been there for them,” stated Meili. “Perhaps they have been eligible, but it’s not readily available in their community or they haven’t been able to get off work – who knows.”
Health Minister Paul Merriman said he is not sure why those health care workers have not received their first dose yet. He’s spoken to union leaders to see if there’s something that can be done to make sure they all receive their vaccine.
Notification to this group to receive the vaccine will come from either the College of Physicians and Surgeons for doctors, or the SHA for other eligible staff.
Remaining health care workers not included in the Phase 1 prioritization will be able to book their COVID-19 vaccination by phone only upon receipt of a letter of eligibility by calling 1-833-SASKVAX.
Pharmacies to prioritize staff working in pharmacy, grocery facilities
Saskatchewan’s pharmacists are set to begin participating in delivering vaccines on the week of April 26 by offering vaccines to pharmacy and grocery store staff working in facilities where doses are offered.
“As pharmacies begin delivering the COVID-19 vaccine, we know there will be an increased risk of exposure to those frontline staff working in those facilities,” stated Merriman. “By making the COVID-19 vaccine available to staff working in the pharmacy or attached grocery spaces through the pharmacists delivering the vaccine, these workers will be protected.”
Pharmacies will require proof of employment in the facility where the vaccine is being delivered. Any staff working in a facility where vaccine delivery is occurring will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in that facility.