Still no COVID-19 vaccine schedule for Southwest

Saskatchewan’s vaccination strategy is coming under scrutiny in the Southwest, where Swift Current and region remains one of just two zones to not receive any COVID-19 vaccines since the launch of Phase One of the provincial vaccine roll-out strategy on January 4.

A first batch delivery previously announced on January 26 failed to materialize and was utilized in second doses in other regions of the province. As of today, a total of 11 of the 13 zones have received first doses, while nine zones have started second dose delivery.

“They were included in a plan that has come and went,” Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe admitted of the Swift Current cancelled vaccines. “Due to the repeated lack of access that we’ve have had with vaccines we had to utilize those vaccines for second doses in areas of the province as we were going to be beyond what was recommended time frame for second doses.”

Premier Moe, speaking during a COVID-19 update earlier today, said reduced vaccine numbers have impacted Saskatchewan’s vaccination schedule.

“The lack of vaccine access in the first month and half or two months of our vaccine program has had consequences. And one of those consequences is that we have areas of this province that have not had access to even their first dose, although they were planned to have that by now.”

Saskatchewan has currently completed only between 10 and 12 per cent of vaccinations for the approximately 190,000 individuals identified in Phase One.

And, with Saskatchewan announcing an age-priority strategy for their Phase Two roll-out, additional groups have voiced their concerns about being left off the vaccination priority list.

“This is very, very challenging to disperse what is a very scarce resource. And we have a number of people that want to have access to that resource. We heard from the Mayor of Swift Current, and I understand why. We’re hearing from a number of healthcare workers, and I understand why. We’re hearing from our educators, and we’re hearing from representatives of our front line law enforcement officials. And I understand why we’re hearing from these folks,” Moe stated on Thursday.

“The fact of the matter is that not all healthcare workers in our public healthcare system are going to have priority access to this vaccine. I understand why the request is there. And as Dr. (Saqib) Shahab had spoken to the risk of exposure earlier, there is a risk of exposure that varies across our healthcare system. That’s one of the factors that needs to be taken into account. There also is the risk of a negative outcome when you do contract COVID-19 and that is age.”

“And we need to balance that risk of exposure, with the risk of a negative outcome, with the capacity of us being able to deliver the numbers of vaccines that we are expecting to receive.”

The Saskatchewan Medical Association was vocal in their concerns over the strategy which does not list physicians and other healthcare workers in subsequent phases of the vaccine delivery plan.

Premier Moe noted that the Ministry of Health is reviewing the plans in response to concerns voiced by a variety of groups.

“What we’ve asked the Ministry of Health to have another re-evaluation of is there other groups of folks in the healthcare sector that would be at high risk of coming in constant contact with COVID patients. Is there other groups that maybe we could include, pull forward into that Phase One vaccine access.”

“But in saying that, it isn’t going to be all of the groups across the healthcare sector. There are going to be number of folks in the healthcare sector that are going to be under the mass vaccination age priority, but we want to have another re-evaluation as to have we ensured all of those that should have access to a vaccine very early, we want to provide that access.”

“That being said, again it comes down to everybody does want to have their vaccine and have it as quickly as possible, ultimately we just don’t have enough vaccines to make that available to everybody.”