Further details on the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine rollout starting next Monday in Prince Albert were provided Wednesday during a press availability with the health minister and Chief Medical Health Officer.
Paul Merriman and Dr. Saqib Shahab also spoke about the first rollout of the Moderna vaccine in the north.
According to Merriman, Pfizer vaccine doses for Prince Albert are still expected to arrive on Monday, along with additional doses for Saskatoon.
“Saskatchewan has a great track record when it come to immunization so we are ready to administer all of the vaccines we get as soon as we receive them. This is how we will protect Saskatchewan people from COVID-19 and move past this pandemic. But until then please keep following all of the guidelines in public health orders to protect yourself and those around you,” Merriman said.
Shahab outlined the situation.
“Based on the vaccine we are getting we are able to start distributing the Pfizer and now the Moderna vaccine to different parts of the province including the Far North,” he said.
“900 doses (of the Pfizer vaccine) will be arriving January 4 and, similar to Regina and Saskatoon, health care workers providing ongoing care to COVID-19 patients, staff that work in long term care facilities and personal care homes will be vaccinated in Prince Albert starting next week,” Shahab added.
The first 3,000 doses have been administered to front line workers in Saskatoon and Regina as of Wednesday’s update.
So far 1,834 vaccines have been administered in Regina and the remainder will be provided to long-term care staff at Regina Pioneer Village and Santa Maria Care Home.
In Saskatoon 3,900 doses of the Pfizer vaccine were delivered on Dec.21 and another 975 were delivered this week. Shahab said that 1,108 of those doses have been administered.
According to Shahab they expect 6,825 doses of vaccine delivered weekly in the month of January. Because the Pfizer vaccine has to be stored below – 70 C the province has procured five special freezers. These are currently located in Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina.
“Further freezers are expected as we branch out the Pfizer vaccine program throughout Saskatchewan,” Shahab said.
The expansion will allow health care workers and workers in long-term care and personal care workers to have access to vaccinations.
The Moderna vaccine will be distributed in the Far North and the first 4,900 doses have arrived. The vaccine can be stored at minus 20 degrees so it is easier to move and store, Shahab said. The first batch will be distributed in the Far North Central and Far North West.
“This is where we have had a high number of cases and a high test positivity rate. Initially about half of the doses will be sent and distributed,” Shahab said.
“The distribution is quite complicated in the Far North so all of that has been worked out and that will start this week and next week and then after vaccines are used, further shipments will be sent from Regina to the far North,” he added.
The vaccination is expected to commence the week of Jan. 4 with high-risk populations having first priority. This includes long-term care residents and staff, personal care home residents and staff, front line health care workers who are giving ongoing regular care to those who have COVID-19 and staff working in COVID-19 testing sites.
According to Shahab, communication is ongoing with local leadership in the Far North to provide notification on topics such as clinic dates and locations. The province is also doing radio advertisements in languages such as Cree and Dene. They are also working with local health authorities.
“There is a lot of pre-planning work that is already happening and as the vaccine goes out obviously the Far north covers a vast geographic area.”
Notifications of those who are eligible this round is ongoing,” Shahab said.
Merriman explained that the vaccination is going well at this stage but they are awaiting clarity from the federal government on some numbers.
“We expect the federal government to begin receiving and distributing much larger numbers of vaccines early in the New Year. We are trying to get a clear indication from the Federal government of the number of vaccines they will be sending us each week so we can better plan for the next step in our distribution process,” he said.
The logistics of vaccination are challenging because of the complexity, scale and differences in storage procedure according to Merriman.
“Saskatchewan is absolutely prepared to meet this challenge but we need the Federal Government to provide more clarity than they have about the numbers of vaccine doses we will receive over the next few weeks,” Merriman said.