Sask. expands eligibility to priority groups; AstraZeneca age is 40+

The province has extended its public health orders to May 10.

That news came out of the news conference in Regina Tuesday with Premier Scott Moore and Dr. Saqib Shahab, chief medical health officer for Saskatchewan.

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In addition to the extension of the current health orders, there were some new changes to eligibility for the provincial vaccine rollout.

Most of the age-based system continues to work well in getting people vaccinated as quickly as possible and in reducing serious outcomes. He noted that now that they had made progress with older age groups the province canal look at vaccinating other priority groups.

Moe announced that when COVID-19 vaccine eligibility is opened to all residents ages 40 and over, Saskatchewan will prioritize access to the COVID-19 vaccine to remaining prioritized first-responders (currently targeted with mobile vaccination units) along with additional front-line workers ages 16+, depending on vaccine product. Those include police officers, firefighters, frontline health workers with direct patient contact, teachers and educational staff working directly with students, correctional staff and border security officers.

Those individuals will require proof of employment from their employer prior to attending mass vaccination sites.

Another announcement that Tuesday was on the recommendation of Dr. Shahab, they have lowered the age for use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to adults 40 years and older. AstraZeneca will be integrated into the provincial vaccination rollout.

Moe also noted that expect to lower the provincewide eligibility for vaccines to 44 this Thursday and to 40 and older by the middle of next week.

In his remarks Dr. Shahab reported they have seen “dramatic impacts” from the vaccination in older age groups, with a rapid decline in COVID-19 hospitalization and death.

Dr. Shahab also spoke on variants of concern. He noted the south, Regina and Saskatoon were seeing the B.1.1.7 variant (the UK variant) which is more transmissible. There had also been a cluster of the B.1.351 which is the South Africa variant, in the north central part of the province, but that was quickly contained through contact tracing and isolation.

Dr. Shahab also noted that in the southwest there was a cluster of five variants of concern of P.1 (Brazil). This had been reported in other parts of Canada including western Canada but this was the first time it was reported in Saskatchewan.

Dr. Shahab urged people do the right thing, to get tested if they have symptoms after any interprovincial or international travel. He also urged people to continue to follow all public health measures.

“While our vaccination program is picking up we have to do all these other things - abide by public health orders and isolate if you’re positive or in close contact,” he said.

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