It has been confirmed Thursday by the province that they will be offering the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine to all Saskatchewan adults by the end of June.
That was announced at a Saskatchewan Health Authority news conference in Regina which included SHA CEO Scott Livingstone and the province’s chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab.
They confirmed that the second doses for Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines will be administered after four months, an increased length of time from the original requirement of three weeks.
This is in response to “increased evidence” that first doses are effective, said Livingstone. All long term care homes have now received the first dose of vaccines and Livingstone reported a dramatic drop in outbreaks in long term care, with a drop from 200 cases infections in December down to a dozen or so.
The increase is in line with an updated recommendation from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, who are recommending that jurisdictions maximize the number of people benefiting from the COVID-19 vaccine by extending the interval between the first and second dose up to four months.
"Implementing the new NACI guidelines in Saskatchewan means that all Saskatchewan residents should have access to their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of June," said provincial health minister Paul Merriman in a statement. "This will speed up administration of vaccines, and our return to normal."
This recommendation will begin implementation as of this Friday, March 5.
Residents will be contacted when they are eligible to book their second dose appointment, based on completing the vaccination sequencing and supply.This does not apply to long-term care and personal care residents and staff who are yet to receive their full two-doses; their existing appointments for second doses will be completed as scheduled.
Livingstone also reports that with the availability of vaccines, they can substantially complete Phase One in early April.
There is also word about what will be happening when the province administers the first 15,500 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in March.
Those will be offered to Saskatchewan residents ages 60-64 and phase one priority health care workers. Again, this is in line with NACI recommendations that the AstraZeneca vaccines be targeted to those under 65.
Administration of those AstraZeneca doses will start March 22 and be distributed to six major hubs throughout the province. All those doses are expected to be fully administered within one week on a by-appointment basis. Health care workers will be provided more information directly from the SHA; members of the public who are eligible will be able to book by phone. Because of the extension of the 16-week interval between doses, Livingstone said it has implications for the automated systems they have built for their vaccine program. They are working with their vendor now so they can launch their booking system.
Once they move forward in the next week, there might be some wrinkles in the fallout for vaccines and Livingstone said he hopes the public will be patient with those changes.
The message was sent to the public that there is no need to by choosy in which vaccine to get. “Any vaccine is the right vaccine,” said Livingstone.
Dr. Shahab said it was his hope the increased doses will “further accelerate our vaccination program.” It was his hope that this “will reach us closer to all adults being fully vaccinated by June, and then second doses will start as well.”
The chief medical health officer was optimistic about a return to normal sooner rather than later. Dr. Shahab said “we are looking at 12 weeks and we can start coming out of it.”
But he emphasized “we all need to be patient, we need to be ready in our minds that when our turn comes we should be ready to get vaccinated. It is my recommendation that we accept any vaccination that’s available.”